Lord of the Rings Online #3: Not a Sheeple Person

By Shamus
on Mar 13, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

If you remember from last time, I’m here in the town of Archet as the result of a series of very bad decisions, most of them by other people. Last night I needed to deliver a letter. By the end of the evening I was going to be killed by the Nazgul. As of today I’m about to watch the destruction of an entire city.

The town is surrounded by brigands who are waiting for nightfall before sweeping in here and giving the entire population of the city an all-expenses-paid trip to the afterlife.

One of the town guards is actually working with the brigands, and it’s my job to go and tattle on him to the captain. I don’t know why Amdir wants me to do this. I have no proof. I’m just repeating the rumor.

Put that thing away! Only players are allowed to wave weapons around irresponsibly.

Put that thing away! Only players are allowed to wave weapons around irresponsibly.

Captain Brackenbrook is not glad to see me. Apparently he’s not willing to imprison and execute one of his own men based on the gossip from a random foreigner.

I go back to Amdir and tell him his idiotic plan didn’t work. He gives me a nice pair of gloves. I don’t know why he gives me gloves. Maybe he just hands out free stuff to people who insult him. Maybe he’d give me a fancy taffeta ball gown if I told him his mother was a whore.

(I’m sure she was a nice lady.)

You two should harness your combined intellect and... hm. Well, maybe if a THIRD idiot comes along...

You two should harness your combined intellect and... hm. Well, maybe if a THIRD idiot comes along...

Have you noticed how all these NPCs have rings over their heads? No? What are you, blind? Oh. You were being sarcastic? Okay then.

Anyway, instead of the standard MMO exclamation mark this game uses a flaming ring as the symbol for “This bloke has a quest for you, why don’t you chat him up?” Not just any ring, but the icon is obviously The One Ring. The single most evil object in the history of the entire world. This is like using a pentagram containing a flaming swastika made of horned skulls as the universal symbol for “help wanted”.

Amdir has sent me out to the sheep pens to help out the sheep guards. Yes, this town has people guarding sheep. They’re about to be wiped off the map by bloodthirsty raiders, but by all means send half our guards outside the city to protect the livestock. No doubt neutralizing our sheep will be the linchpin of their entire assault.

Generations ago their family name used to be DIRTBLOCK when they first immigrated from Minecraft.

Generations ago their family name used to be DIRTBLOCK when they first immigrated from Minecraft.

The leader of this Wooly Vanguard introduces himself as Dirk Mudbrick and explains the wolves are prowling around and threatening the sheep. In order to protect the flock, he needs me to kill five of them.

“This is just shocking. I can scarcely believe it. Are you seriously telling me that your name is DIRK MUDBRICK?!? You poor man. I don’t care what other problems you have around here, you really should fix that as soon as possible. Especially since you’re probably going to die when the raiders attack. Do you really want to be buried under a tombstone with the word MUDBRICK written on it?”

I look around the sheep pen. Dirk is at the top of the hill. There are four more guards at the bottom. Already these sheep are more fiercely guarded than the town itself. Either the captain of the guard really loves these sheep, or he really hates his fellow citizens.

But rather than sparing a member of the sheep vanguard they’re sending out a random musician to kill some wolves. I’m sure the deadly beasts will be no match for my lute and iambic pentameter.

Nice doggy.

Nice doggy.

Five messy wolf-stabbings later, I return to MUDBRICK (ha ha!) to see what he wants next, and if he’s willing to offer me any clothes. I politely suggest that maybe we should hold off on further big game hunting until after we do something about the IMPENDING RAID WHICH WILL KILL US ALL.

A spearman, eh? I favor the knife myself.

A spearman, eh? I favor the knife myself.

Dirk looks off in the direction of the bandit camp and thinks for a bit, “I’d like ye to go see if ye can discover their plans.”

I fold my arms, “You want me to just track down a random ruffian and ask him what they’re up to? I realize humans are astoundingly moronic – no offense – but I think they’re at least smart enough to not blabber their plans to me.”

“Well, I wasn’t suggesting ye ask them, as such. See if they’ve been issued any orders.”

“Do you honestly believe they’ll just have their secret plans written down? And that they’ll carry those around with them in the woods? And even if they are that thick – and they might be – how do I get those orders?”

“Well, naturally ye will have to kill them.”

“Kill? A person? No. I’m drawing the line here. I’ve killed spiders. I’ve killed wolves. But I will NOT kill-“

“I’ll give ye these shoes.”

“One dead brigand, coming up.”

Gentlemen.

Gentlemen.

You okay buddy? No? Good.

You okay buddy? No? Good.

On the downside, I’ve just killed a man. On the upside, he actually is carrying orders and I have a brand new pair of shoes waiting for me when all this is over.

I take the note back to DIRK MUDBRICK (tee hee) and show it to him. He gets all excited because the note clearly identifies Calder Cob as a spy. Why would the bad guys write sensitive stuff like that down?

Who cares? Gimmie shoes!

Seriously, you don`t have like, a sheath or anything? Can you stick it to your back? I`ve seen some adventurers do that.

Seriously, you don`t have like, a sheath or anything? Can you stick it to your back? I`ve seen some adventurers do that.

I take the note to captain Brackenbrook, who immediately orders his men to arrest Calder Cob. Oh, so he wouldn’t believe that one of his own men was a traitor even when everyone else in town said so, but now that he’s seen it written on a piece of paper he’s convinced. But more importantly:

Ohmuhgod SHOES!

Ohmuhgod SHOES!

They’re green!

Captain Brackenbrook wants me to go speak with his son Jon and see what help he might need preparing the city defenses. I just need to take the east road out of town.

This is good news. The south road is surrounded by bandits, wolves, and wild boars. I don’t want to have to go that way. In fact, it will be nice to be able to get from A to B for once without having to hack my way through half the fauna of Middle Earth. Let’s see, east road…

This does not bode well.

This does not bode well.

Oh goblin balls. It’s spiders, isn’t it?

If this is a HATCHLING, then what does a full-grown one look like, and how can I make sure I never find out?

If this is a HATCHLING, then what does a full-grown one look like, and how can I make sure I never find out?

Bigger than the spiders from last night.

Shouldn`t you be ambushing a brood somewhere?

Shouldn`t you be ambushing a brood somewhere?

I really don’t know how these people can live like this. Although I guess they won’t for much longer.

Why am I still using a dagger? This really seems like a situation where you`d want a weapon with some reach. Like a trebuchet.

Why am I still using a dagger? This really seems like a situation where you`d want a weapon with some reach. Like a trebuchet.

Do people really have to fight giant spiders every time they want to go to the lodge?

The tragedy of videogame worlds: Vistas must always be ruined by towering rock faces to keep the player inside the playpen.

The tragedy of videogame worlds: Vistas must always be ruined by towering rock faces to keep the player inside the playpen.

It’s supposedly a hunter’s lodge, but I think most hunters would be sick of killing things long before they made it halfway there.

On my way into the lodge I meet…

SANTA?

SANTA?

“A Dwarf! Never met a Dwarf before. Hi there. What’s your story?”

“Aye! Greetings Traveler! Would you be interested in some work? I can offer ye this ring.”

I think I like Dwarves already. “Jewelry? Now that sounds pretty nice. What’s the job?”

“Well, I’ll be needin’ ye you go on the road back towards town and kill me five ‘O them gigantic spiders.”

“Yeah. Done!”, I tell him.

“What do ye mean, ‘done’? Ye are still standin’ here!”

“I know. I just came in on that road. I killed a bunch of the little bastards. Now hand over the ring.”

“No, I want you to kill five more.

“I did. I killed five. And five more, and then some. Now let me see how the ring fits. Will I need to have it sized?”

“No, I want ye to kill five more, startin’ now.”

“Look you mop-faced drunk, you promised me a ring for five dead bugs.”

“STARTING NOW.”

Sigh. Fine.

I do hate when games do this. Ask me to kill something new, but don’t ask me to kill five of something when I had to kill a dozen of them to get here to get the quest to kill five. It’s just… rude.

I squash some bugs and get my new ring.

That done, I head inside the lodge to talk to Jon. Jon is in the dining room by the fire. The place smells of beer and roasted meat. I wait for him to finish chewing and introduce myself.

Did they kill this bear while it was DJ-ing a party? Because it looks like he`s working a turntable and fist-pumping.

Did they kill this bear while it was DJ-ing a party? Because it looks like he`s working a turntable and fist-pumping.

“Greetings, Hobbit”, he says, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, “I’m glad you’re here. If Archet is to survive the attack, then we must have time to prepare our defenses.”

You want more time? I’m not sure that’s possible. I mean, they’re going to attack at nightfall. Short of slowing down the rotation of the earth, I don’t think there’s all that much to be done about it.

Jon nods appreciatively before draining his mug, “I was thinking you could go and kill six of them.”

“Oh were you? That’s your plan then? You’re going to aid the defense of the city by having a lone minstrel assault their base directly? If I can kill six of them by myself, think of how many you could kill if you sent actual soldiers. I mean, you don’t look particularly busy here.”

Jon looks around the room, taking an account of his men. “I can’t spare any of these men. We’re already on… guard duty.”

“You’re guarding from inside a building?”

“Nate is guarding the beer-barrel here. The hunters are assigned to guarding the fire from going out. And Fenton and I are guarding the roast mutton, the bread, the Shire stew, and the candied yams.”

“You’re guarding food?”

“Yes. We’re protecting them from… being leftovers.”

“Right. So you want me to murder people for you. I’m a musician, not an assassin. Now, if you want me to write a song about you stuffing your faces, I’m your girl. But if you need people made dead, why don’t you hire an expert?”

“I’ll give you this grand wide-brimmed hat.”

“I… I’ve always wanted a wide-brimmed hat.”

“It’s plumed.”

A striker? I didn`t know bandits had labor disputes. Moreover, if she`s on strike then why is she fighting?

A striker? I didn`t know bandits had labor disputes. Moreover, if she`s on strike then why is she fighting?

On one hand, I feel a little guilty killing people for a hat. Even evil people who are working with the Nazgul. On the other hand, this murder business is getting easier as it goes.

You can`t teabag a foe if you`re a Hobbit, because you just end up sitting on their head.

You can`t teabag a foe if you`re a Hobbit, because you just end up sitting on their head.

/spit

I add a few brigands to the dead list, and Jon gives me my reward. I’m so happy I hop up on the table and sing them a song:

How hard do these guys party? Look at the wall in the background. Apparently they got so wasted one night they killed a spider and mounted it on the wall.

How hard do these guys party? Look at the wall in the background. Apparently they got so wasted one night they killed a spider and mounted it on the wall.

Jon and his lodge-mates were stuffing their faces.
While outside came brigands from all over the places.

They had boar and some stew and then several roast muttons.
Proving to all that they have the most gluttons.

They had beer, they had song, they had food, they had slacking.
I agree with the brigands: Archet’s due for a sacking!

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20A natural twenty.

From the Archives:

  1. Zaxares says:

    Just wanted to say that this is as hilarious as when I first read it, Shamus. :D

  2. Mattias42 says:

    You know, that is a good point. Why is the quest marker The One Ring for the good-guys?

    I mean, isn’t all those swords that glow blue just as iconic, and actually tools/symbols of fighting evil?

    • Echo Tango says:

      Maybe they were worried about smiths getting confused for quest people?

    • Xeorm says:

      Know of any other iconic symbols they could use that near everyone might immediately grasp?

      Glowing swords aren’t nearly as iconic to the series as the One Ring is.

      • Mattias42 says:

        Why not Elvish then?

        A silvery halo that says: ‘Champion, aid us in our darkest times!’ or something thereabout over the quest-givers head. And when you turn it in it could be doing that glowing with moonlight thing, and say something like equally lore friendly but more triumphant.

        Not only is that far more of a bone for the ultra-fans, but even the complete straights have seen at least a glimpse or two of Elvish. It is up there with Klingon and Esperanto as constructed langues people actually speak, after all.

        Or alternatively, a silhouette of Gandalf. He’s one of the most well-known good-guys in fiction, after all. Grey and defiant for quests on offer, white and a different, more triumphant pose for challenges passed.

        Still, as Shamus said, using the ultimate in-universe symbol of greed and corruption is just weird when you think about it.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Eh I dunno, LotR is the story of a quest to destroy the Ring, I suppose it could be argued that the logic is “if you see the ring symbol you need to do something about it”. My beef would be more that having it attached to things like “kill five spiders” kinda devalues it when really pretty much anything that’s reasonably eyecatching would do.

      • Syal says:

        Not iconic, but the Beacons of Gondor as quest markers would be easy to grasp. (You could even have unlit ones if you wanted to get fancy and show who would have quests in the future.)

  3. Hector says:

    Typo:
    “They had beer, they had song, they food, they had slacking.”

    They food all over the place, didn’t they?

    I didn’t play LotRO for very long, but one thing I loved was the lush attention to detail. In most MMO’s, the interiors, if they exist at all, would be pretty sparse, but LoTRO made palces that felt like real places. But even outside felt much more plausible. Sure, some buildings were oversized, but villages felt like they were village-sized. Towns felt like it was an actual town, with enough people to support actual economic activity. I haven’t seen another game try that until the Witcher 3.

  4. NoneCallMeTim says:

    I played LotRO briefly with friends, I have a very low tolerance for MMO gameplay, so sympathise with your comments on how nuts all this is.

    Also, I don’t know how much you care but:
    “In order to protect the flock, he needs me to kill six of them.”

    Five messy wolf-stabbings later…”

  5. Nidokoenig says:

    The quests in Xenoblade X were pretty good about letting you turn in beast drops, to the extent that one easy way to level up was to go to the quest board and just empty your inventory into it until you were satisfied or were out of stuff. And the board was right outside your house, so you didn’t have to kill anything to get to it, so if the quest was to kill X things, it wasn’t quite as egregious.

    Shamus, regarding what you said on Twitter about Sonic, you can get the originals on Steam. Sonic 1 even has a rhythm of switching from fast to slow levels, so it’s nowhere near as difficult as more recent games look. The recent ones are pretty on rails, though they’ve got an annoying emphasis on reaction times or memorisation. You could also emulate the Master System games, which are slower paced due to the hardware. A controller would be a good idea, but they should be fairly playable with just the keyboard.

    • Mattias42 says:

      The Witcher series is quite good about the ‘kill X of Y’ quests as well.

      For one, it makes thematic sense since you’re… Well, a Witcher. THE local monster-hunters. Of course you’d hawk over a dozen wolf-pelts for some coins. It’s the whole reason you got mutated into a Witcher in the first place, and a nice side-gig between the more supernatural stuff.

      And two, although you need to know the monsters anatomy to get quite a few of the drops, they are also useful in the alchemy system and drop weather you have the quest or not. Giving you a very nice incentive to learn your foes strengths and weaknesses as well.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t understand this kind of quest either. Is it so hard to lampshade that?

    A) “I need you to kill five spiders. But these aren’t regular spiders, they’re poisonous.” You just give the spiders the ability to inflict poison and presto.
    B) “I need you to kill five spiders, and bring me their nutsacks.” You’ve been killing a lot of spiders, but clearly you never thought of taking their nutsacks for no reason. Now you have one.
    C) “I need you to kill five spiders. Many spider-farmers come here to asess the place so they can send their spiders to cripple it. I need to know you’re not one of them, and seeing you killing spiders is the way to prove it. A spider-farmer wouldn’t kill them, since they’re costly to raise.” See, now he needs to see you kill them for a particular reason, so you can’t just tell him you did before because he didn’t see you.

    And these are all off the top of my head. Surely an MMO writer can spare a few seconds to at least try to justify their repetitive quests.

    • Abnaxis says:

      As bad as some aspects of the game was, I liked the way the first Witcher game handled this (haven’t gotten to the others yet). It was like B, except you have a reason for carting around spider nutsacks–so you can make spider-nutsack potions! They even gave all the creature-parts their own special inventory so they didn’t take up main inventory slots.

      For every instance of “kill 5 creatures” I could either say “I haven’t seen one yet” or “are you sure you won’t pay for 20?” because I am an obsessive hoarder.

  7. kdansky says:

    Your img-tags have the wrong kind of apostrophes. I care about that, because ยด and ` do not compile, but ‘ does.

  8. SharpeRifle says:

    Funny…I always just figured the bandits had a soccer team.

  9. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    When I saw the shoes: “What are those!” – a good meme to use to show that they are shoes.

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