I just came back from a surprise visit to the Standing Stone Games office up in Boston. We are excited to share with you some of the early concepts bouncing around in the idea room (located catty-corner to the vending machines, which, unfortunately, had no Coke Zero). Note that these are in an early-mid stage of development, and may not all survive to make it to the beta or live builds.
When I attempted to get into a secondary room that seemed to be abuzz with conversation, they had actually hired someone dressed up like Gandalf with muscles like Hulk Hogan to stand at the entrance and command that I “shall not pass.” He seemed to have quite the physical mastery, and I’m not sure my mitigations were quite up to snuff. Oh well, on to the nuggets!
Battle of the Blabbers
Just because we’re coming up to Mordor does not mean Standing Stone Games (SSG) can forget about the ongoing situation in other parts of Middle Earth. Other hobbits have their role to play, and they are hard at work in creating a concept involving two rather large voices – Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and the Mouth of Sauron.
Content designer Maya “Gosup” Tern and others have been hard at work attempting to pit these two individuals together in an epic battle [Ed. Note: Not the same thing as an “Epic Battle”] of modulation. There is no definite etch in the stone as to how they will present this, but we managed to sneak away with a couple possible alternates.
One option was a session play that has you cast as the role of Lobelia. In a setting not yet discussed, you and the Mouth of Sauron (MoS) will be launched into a deep debate as to the plight of the current world. Using a host of choices, you must use your hobbit-sense to try and finesse MoS to see as many of your viewpoints as possible. In the meanwhile, you need to block as many of the loony counterpoints as you can – he is the servant of a dark sorcerer, after all.
Another choice Gosup discussed was essentially a Middle Earth rap-off battle. You’d be by Lobelia’s side (playing your own character), and attempt to “bring it” to the MoS and his cronies. You can select from a wide range of phrases and rhymes for Lobelia to lob to the other court and see how much shade you can throw his way (not counting the host of Cargul he has by his side).
“This second option would even give us a chance should a Game Master decide to log in and play as the role of the Mouth of Sauron,” Gosup told us. “We’d remove the preset options and allow the player and GM to really go at it…keeping within the Rules of Conduct, naturally.”
We look forward to seeing what SSG can come up with to really highlight these two raconteurs of speech.
Concerning Level Cap
Standing Stone Games realize the importance of raising the bar as we enter Mordor and near the finish line of our task in assisting the fellowship. More specifically, the experience bar. Logically, we’d expect a raise to something like 110, perhaps 115 (or more?).
However, after much discussion in the studio, they have settled on a much more novel idea – the level cap is expected to be raised to 111. If you understand even a smidgen of lore, it is certainly not hard to pick up on the significance of an eleventy-first level character.
“We understand some of you may be triggered by this choice for a level cap,” systems designer Bill “Hoobet” Boe told us. “However, our intended idea for a cap would have originally only been 110. Think of this as an extra trait point for your builds. Otherwise, I hope anyone with an inkling of the Lord of the Rings appreciates this nod.”
They will be monitoring player feedback on this rather interesting “lore-iteration” (as Hoobet put it).
Casting your role in Middle Earth
We know that the fishing hobby doesn’t really play too much importance in current LOTRO play. You occasionally see it tossed in as a minor activity in a festival and quest objectives, but its role as a hobby has been mostly been sidelined and forgotten.
SSG was excited to announce to us the addition of a new fishing developer to the team, Hal “Bakstrok” Ibut (formerly a high-stakes Alaskan king crab fisherman). He will be tasked with luring players back into sea-ing the fun one can have plopping a line in the water and waiting for a miracle to happen.
They will begin with an easy change – bumping the maximum fishing level from 200 to 500. This should incite those who may have already capped off to return for even more riveting content in the tide. Next, they are planning to introduce the Arda Lake Federation (or ALF for short), an entirely new reputation faction focused on aiding the fishermen of Middle Earth. You will be able to improve your standing by acquiring fish and bartering directly for various amounts of reputation – at least, if your fish are large enough not to be thrown right back in the pond.
The summer festival does include a fair bit of fishing, but it never really celebrated it to its fullest. Bakstrok has plans for a new fishing festival, which will include several water-based activities sure to get that appetite wet for some fishing frivolities.
The events have not yet been revealed, but Bakstrok has stated that the rewards should please the anglerphiles. From special cosmetics and rods, to mounts and pets, SSG have plans to celebrate our favorite seasoned hobby.
Build-a-Barely Sustainable Mordor
We were not given much information about how they would present the destruction of the ring. However, we may have been told by a little fell-beast that the team has plans for what to do with Mordor after the fall of Sauron. Apparently they are looking at bringing back the Hytbold system – this time on a large scale with almost the entirety of Mordor.
“We’ve had such positive reception from Hytbold,” content designers & spouses Rhea “Dai” and Pete “Efturdee” Alovver insisted us. “The decision to implement this was a no-brainer.”
Tasks will begin with a long onslaught of clearing bodies not already wiped away by the fires of Orodruin, sweeping the plains of plague-ridden foliage, and even a month or two of simply praying to the deities that someone will smile a fraction of a ray upon the cursed land. From there, you may begin to assemble structures and attempt to revitalize the earth to a usable state.
If you are lucky, you may even be able to rebuild Barad-Dûr in your image! Upon completion of the task, this will unlock a daily to scale the exterior scaffolding. Rewards for completion of bringing Mordor back to life include your own set of Black Gates (dyable) for your homestead. Keep out those pesky neighbors mooching off your ingredient crates and overabundance of class quest items!
We look forward to hearing more from the studio as we approach closer and closer into the cursed Black Lands, and we’ll keep you updated when we hear of additional details!