Dev Diary: Imbued Starter Areas


Please note: The following post was an April Fool’s joke and is not real.

Hey there, Aries “Dummcile” Rammicus here, content designer for Lord of the Rings Online, and today I’d like to share with you one of our exciting new projects in LOTRO. While browsing the forum one day, I kept coming across threads and comments about favorite zones in the game. Among these opinions included a pretty hefty nod toward the game’s starter areas: Bree-land, Ered Luin, and the Shire.

Back when we revisited our Legendary Item system to implement Imbued LIs, an idea was thrown around the office about utilizing this same philosophy with landscape content. Could we create new architectural layers of prior regions for the sake of adding a new level of landscape challenge for the level-capped player?

Just like imbued LIs, we didn’t want something that was required by the player, and would instead be an opt-in set of objectives to complete. As a separate layer from the original maps, it would in theory be easier to adjust and scale the trials presented (for balance fixes and future level cap increases), without fear of interfering with the “vanilla” areas.

And thus Imbued Starter Areas were born.

When you hit level 105, you will be prompted to return to the NPC that first introduced you to Middle Earth (post the tutorial and introduction phases). From here, you will be replaying that area on an entirely new layer with enhanced challenges. Consider these new “starting” areas our tier 2 challenge gift to you. Looks like Jagger Jack now might actually necessitate a full raid, at the very least.

As mentioned, you will need to head over to specific NPCs on the landscape, and talk with them to have the option to switch to the imbued version of that appropriate zone:

  • Race of Man to Jon Brackenbrook in Archet
  • Dwarves to Skogi in Thorin’s Gate
  • Elves to Eilian in Celondim
  • Hobbits to Mundo Sackville-Baggins in Little Delving

Along with all the goodies and item XP you’ll be earning on your journey, finishing off various story arcs in your respective area will unlock additional racial traits that can be slotted in your racial trait panel, as well as a class trait point that can be spent at the conclusion of the story.

I will highlight a bit about each of the regions below. The rest…well you’ll just have to explore and find it out for yourself!



Bree-land is no longer a safe haven for all sorts of Free People. Vast armies of brigands, orcs, wights, and burrowing neekerbreekers may now enter the capital city at any time in an attempt to raze and pillage. You will be awarded (yet) another barter currency if you can secure various portions of the city during your Bree campaign.

Losing areas may result in a permanent passive bonus to all enemy types that destroyed that sector of Bree-town, which will certainly make it more difficult to overcome their own challenges presented on that respective enemy’s turf.

There will be no penalty for letting them annihilate Lalia’s Market and adding its current proprietor to the Great Barrow tour ride. Perhaps it was she that lured the Bree guards away from their posts with indistinguishable shiny coins, causing this ruckus to ensue…

Not even Bree-town is safe from the perils beyond the gate…

We also wanted to put effort into highlighting the variety of terrain outside the town. From the impassible thickets of the Old Forest and Chetwood, to the incurably sticky swamps of the Midgewater Marshes, and finally the tempting green hills that connect the land, we decided to add a bit of immersive effects that may physically debilitate your character’s journey.

  • Forests are now much darker and maps are disabled, and contain a procedurally-generated algorithm that will occasionally “shift” the layout as the living trees uproot and find themselves a new place to rest.
  • Swamps will drastically slow the character as the gooey sludge works its way around your feet. It may help to have classes in your fellowship that can lay down fire in some fashion, which will create an AoE “safe zone” of travel.
  • Open grassier areas will not debilitate the players’ cameras or movement, but these open lands are now much more heavily trafficked by the enemy. Additional encampments have been placed around in an attempt to blockade portions of the region.


Ered Luin

Once a haven for Dwarf and Elf-kin, a silly squabble over berry bushes in the rumored treasure fields of the Low-Lands have ushered in a contesting campaign over domination for the land of the Blue Mountain. You wanted another PvP map? You got it.

Your starting location will extend either end of the region, depending on your selected race (either Thorin’s Gate or Celondim). From there, a choice of  scenarios will essentially allow users the ability to queue up the type of PvP map they’d like to experience. We hope this new kind of queue technology will be enjoyed, and we hope to implement it in future facets of the game.

For the launch, these will operate like layers within a layer (and no, you will not need to bring a trinket with you – you can leave your spinning tops at home!). You can load up a a PvP instance, participate in the match, then return back to the overworld. These instances will encompass various arenas, including the Kheledul Docks, Rath Teraig, and the many levels of Sarnur. A separate entire fully PvP map of Ered Luin is in the works, and will be coming in a future update after our skilled PvP team polishes the smaller arena battles. Expect a future developer diary on these new PvP arenas.

Kheldul Docks, one of our new instanced PvP arenas

Because we understand not everybody enjoys participating in player versus player content, a default scenario, while still contesting with the opposing race, will not require users to fight enemy players, but instead enemy NPC dwarves or elves. As our first implementation of Imbued Starter Areas requires players to stick with the area of their selected race, we do not want to alienate this passionate group of players by having an area they might otherwise skip simply if it only had a PvP focus. Fret not – our wonderful content developers are working in tandem with the PvP team to create a PvE campaign that fits cohesively with the goals of the PvP maps, but is still a fully-fleshed out story of its own.


The Shire

Ah yes, and now we come to the peaceful and sweet-smelling hills of the Shire. Home to a simple race of beings not known to be adventurous or ill-tempered (albeit a few sporting individuals) . What could we possibly do here, make them miss a meal?

Well well, apparently it was NOT a good idea for us to mess with their regularly-scheduled feasts. With second breakfast suddenly missing from halfling plates (and other meals in possible danger of disappearing), a frightened chaos has swept all corners of the Shire.

As a result, the Bounders have had no choice but to enact martial law. The borders have been closed to all but hobbit-kind while the chiefs have convened in Hobbiton’s Green Dragon to come up with a solution to this mystery.

An asset to solving this mystery, Nosey Hobbits have been granted war-steeds

As a hobbit who has travelled the lands, you are welcomed for your experience in tense situations. Yet, there are others who may question your judgement, and fear your intentions in this scenario (especially the sour-faced Lobelia Sackville-Baggins).

With tensions high and house arrests enforced, unruly goblins and beasts have been able to easily multiply and disrupt several farmlands. Your detective work won’t be quite a simple walk in the Farthing.

A culinary crisis of this scale has not seen the light of day ever since the dreaded Tainted Hornblower Pie Debacle of 3018. Time is of the essence if you want to survive until elevenses – you must solve this riddle of the refreshments!


Roving Threats

One of the great parts about implementing separate layers from the vanilla starting areas is the ability to place more challenging encounters without worrying about interfering with low-level players.

We expect to have at least quadruple the number of roving threats per map, as compared to prior regions. These are dangerous territories, and they need proper “generals” to make them feel daunting and aggressive.

Below is a small nibble of the roving threats you may face in the Imbued Starting Areas.

Roving Threats in (top to bottom) Bree-land, the Shire, and Ered Luin



  • Let’s get to the nuts and bolts. How much will this new content cost us?
    • The original starter areas are free, and our Imbued Legendary Items system, introduced in Update 16, was free. As a treat to our player base, the Imbued Starter Areas will be FREE to all users!
  • What kinds of PvP do we expect to see in Ered Luin’s various instanced maps?
    • Currently, we are testing out a team deathmatch style in some of our smaller maps (including Kheledul Docks), and a capture the flag sort of style for our larger maps (such as Sarnur). Adjustments can be made as we start rolling this our to our passionate testers.
  • Will mounted combat be available in these areas?
    • We do plan on having mounted combat an option in some of the areas – particularly the more open sections. Some spaces will have it disabled, and entering a town (including Bree-town) will both disable mounted combat and limit the speed roughly to that of a regular mount.
  • Any plans to create additional Imbued Starter Areas?
    • Other than ideas floating around, we have nothing currently set in stone to develop additional Imbued Starter Areas. We will gather your feedback on this release and use that to help determine if this is something you guys want to see pushed even further. We loved toying around with these regions and seeing how far we can push the difficulty without making it completely unfair to the player. We promise we won’t make an actual “Ever-swimming” area…at least not one without a raft or two!


In Conclusion…

We hope you guys enjoy this new, fresh take on pairing our layering technology with these refurbished zones. Our itemization team has been hard at work producing goodies we think will ignite that nostalgic feeling you had when first entering these areas.

For now, you will only be able to participate in the imbued starter area of your own selected race for each character. If all goes well, we hope to implement a session play-like copied representation of your class as a different race, depending on the imbued starter area you’d like to experience.

Please look forward to the implementation of Imbued Starter Areas in Update 41.16. As always, please let us know what you’d like to see, as well as feedback of our new releases on the LOTRO forums.



  1. Baldigar /

    Ah dang, I would have loved this 😛

  2. Flosiin /

    This is awesome!!

  3. Please don’t make fool’s jokes about “imbued” gaming elements. Because LOTRO really needs to be imbued in many respects. So this is not so funny…

  4. I soooo wished this was true… Especially the part about the Shire and Bree sound fun 😀 But the “Shifting Forest” is just plain evil!

  5. honestly, it’ll be awesome for more zones to get the Annuminas treatment

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