Shamus Plays LOTRO #23: Jailbreak

By Shamus
on Aug 7, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

So I’m in the bandit hideout. For some reason, I’ve been allowed in to see Amdir.

I don`t know if DANGEROUS is the right word. I think LIABILITY is closer to the truth.

I don`t know if DANGEROUS is the right word. I think LIABILITY is closer to the truth.

The guard has somehow received word from bandit leader Skunkwood (hee hee) that I’m to be allowed in to see the prisoner. Amdir is being guarded by a couple of guards who are one good “BOO!” away from pissing themselves. I manage to resist the urge.

Note how my shadow is pointing a different direction than everyone else`s. This game is pretty, but still hampered by the technical limitations of 2007, when an object could only project a shadow based on the closest light source and ignore all others.

Note how my shadow is pointing a different direction than everyone else`s. This game is pretty, but still hampered by the technical limitations of 2007, when an object could only project a shadow based on the closest light source and ignore all others.

The past few weeks have not been kind to Amdir. Aside from looking pale, withered, and incredibly evil, he seems to be suffering from a mild case of transparency. He’s obviously being tormented and warped by the powers of the Nazgul.

Okay developers, did you take a regular jail door and scale it up to fit in this cave? Because that latch is REALLY far off the ground.

Okay developers, did you take a regular jail door and scale it up to fit in this cave? Because that latch is REALLY far off the ground.

I’ll bet the Nazgul aren’t enjoying this either. Trying to break Amdir’s mind is going to be like trying to shatter a wet noodle.

He recognizes me, which is a bad thing. Suddenly he starts jabbering on about voices and all sorts of creepy dark-tower type stuff. The lights dim and it feels like the Dark Lord himself is trying to get to second base with me.

I can’t really get to Amdir through the bars so I don’t have any way of making him stop radiating evil mojo. The guards and I are all stunned or frozen with fear.

Boy, poisoning all those dogs yesterday sure was integral to this plan somehow.

Boy, poisoning all those dogs yesterday sure was integral to this plan somehow.

He lets out a deathly cry. Suddenly his cell door swings open, and the guards collapse. Then he legs it, raving like a madman. So I guess he was able to escape at will, and was just waiting until an old friend showed up to give him the boost of confidence? Or something like that?

The fear abates and I come back to my senses. Now that Amdir has run off, I see that he had a cell-mate.

An old woman. Why would they kidnap and imprison an old woman?

Look at all these skulls. Do you have another pile around here that`s just arms and legs?

Look at all these skulls. Do you have another pile around here that`s just arms and legs?

Sara Oakheart sees me through the open cell door and immediately brightens up. “Thank you so much for coming to rescue me!”, she says in a creaky voice.

“Right. Rescue you. That’s why I’m here. Because people on the outside totally know about you being in here. And care.”

“I have been held captive here for such a long time!”

“I can see that. Are these… Is this your pile of skulls? What have they been feeding you?”

“I’ve seen many terrible things here.”

“More terrible than a hundred skulls?”

“If you will help me escape, I’ll be happy to tell you what I’ve seen.”

“I’d be even happier if you didn’t. At any rate, I did help you escape. The door’s open.”

She cocks her head to one side and gives me an innocent smile.

“Sooooo…”, I continue. “Good luck on the way out. Let me know how it goes.”

Her innocent and slightly creepy smile continues.

“You’re expecting an escort, aren’t you?”, I ask with dread.

“Her lips part into an even broader smile, giving me a view of her gray sinking teeth.

This is going to hurt, but I see I don’t have any choice, “Fine. Let’s get this over with.”

Looking around, I see that all of the guards are dead. Great. Looks like turning evil also transformed Amdir into a room-clearing badass.

No wait. They weren’t dead, just sleeping.

And thus begins another horrible griefing escort quest, for which Turbine has become infamous. This is it. Sara Oakheart is the boss monster of NPC escorts.

Amdir knocked out all the bad guys on his way out, so they’re all face-down on the floor. Sara walks very, very slowly. You have to follow her as she painstakingly creeps through the cavern. There’s plenty of time for you to run ahead of Sara and finish off the guys while they’re passed out, but the game won’t let you. You can go and stand on top of their bodies while you wait for Sara to catch up, but you can’t target or attack them until they wake up. And they don’t wake up until Sara gets close so they can jump up and attack the old woman.

I think she`s trolling me. Which means in this quest Sara Oakheart is basically a cave troll.

I think she`s trolling me. Which means in this quest Sara Oakheart is basically a cave troll.

So you must follow her from one ambush to the next. Usually crappy MMO ambush escort missions will just create the bad guys out of thin air. That sucks, but it’s even worse to be able to see your attackers and not be allowed to fight them until they ambush you. In the former the game is just cheating, but in the latter the game is cheating AND forcing you to behave like an idiot.

It’s about a twenty second walk from her cage to the exit, but following her the trip takes, no kidding, six minutes. Six minutes of this:

Bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored PANIC KILL KILL KILL Etc.

The Sara Oakheart quests are the very lowest point of the game, fun-wise. Yes, quests. Plural. She appears multiple times in the game as part of a lame, unfair, and nonsensical escort quest. I think the quests are intended to be funny, but the joke wears out its welcome after the first ambush, much less on your 4th attempt to complete her 3rd escort quest.

I’ve just followed Sara across the room and down the tunnel, a process which took about eleven days. Suddenly she stops heading for the door and starts going for a side-tunnel.

“No, this way.”, I tell her. “The front door is over here.”

“I simply can’t leave without my walking stick.”

Hates her! Hates her forever!

Hates her! Hates her forever!

“No! Stop. This is going to take forever as it is! Look, it’s a stupid stick. I’ve got a staff right here. You can have it. My treat.”

“No? How about this handful of silver? Use it to buy yourself ten sticks! No? Ok, how about you head for the door and I get the stick for you? Or I promise to come back for it once you’re safe? Ok,you stay here and I’ll run ahead and grab the stick for you?”

I`ll have to fight these mooks in a second, but they won`t jump up and become fight-able until she gets closer.

I`ll have to fight these mooks in a second, but they won`t jump up and become fight-able until she gets closer.

I sigh, “No? How about we risk life and limb gradually shuffling from one band of killers to the next in order to recover your walking stick?”

She gives me another one of those creepy smiles.

Some ages of the world later, we’ve reached the bandit storage room where they keep all the sticks they take from old people. Sara is overjoyed.

Total human lives ended to recover said walking stick: 5

And that’s not even counting…

THIS is the fight where you`re supposed to have friends along. It`s a cruel difficulty spike at the end of a long escort quest. I handled it, though.

THIS is the fight where you`re supposed to have friends along. It`s a cruel difficulty spike at the end of a long escort quest. I handled it, though.

“Ah. Hello again, Bill.”, I say with transparently thin cheer.

He draws his sword.

“Easy there Skunkworks.”, I tell him, “I know this looks bad, but I’m just escorting this crazy old woman out of the cave. And really, that’s no skin off your nose, right? I mean, what was she aside from a mouth to feed? It’s not like she’s got military secrets – or anything else – floating around in her head, right?”

“Is that why the two of you raided the armory?”

“All we took was a stick! You’re blowing this totally out of proportion!”

“What about letting Amdir go?”

“Hey now, he did that on his own. You should talk to your guards about that one.”

“Oh? Fine. I’ll see what they have to say about it. Where are they?”

“Okay. You got me there. I might have killed those guys a bit.”

“And?”, Skunkwood says, raising his eyebrows.

“Sigh. And a few other guys here and there.”

“And what about this report I got a couple of weeks ago, telling me that a Hobbit minstrel had butchered her way through our ranks to steal a handkerchief from one of our men?”

“I suppose it would be asking a lot for you to believe it was some other Hobbit minstrel?”

“It would.”

“That’s understandable I guess.”

“And so now I’m going to feed you to my pack of dogs.”

I point at the snarling dogs on either side of him, “Your ‘pack’ of dogs? You’ve only got two there.”

“The rest were all poisoned. But I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“Okay, but before we do this, I just want to tell you one thing.”

“Yes?”

“You have a stupid name.”

“So noted.”

THEM? Man, you could at least recognize that I`m soloing your encounter. Jerk.

THEM? Man, you could at least recognize that I`m soloing your encounter. Jerk.

I should say that Skunkweed’s dogs are something of a handful compared to the fights I’ve been having. This either speaks of the excellent quality of his dogs, or the awful quality of his men. There are several minutes of stabbing and fur and swearing, and at the end of it Skunksack is dead and Ms. Oakheart has walked nearly three paces.

He’s dead, and I feel like I need to mark the occasion by saying something witty. Are there any more puns I could make with his name? Or maybe a joke where I work in calling him “roadkill” somehow? I’m still standing there trying to work out what I want to say when I realize Sara has moved on and his now creeping inexorably towards the door.

Oh my! Look at the time! It`s now the fourth age of the world.

Oh my! Look at the time! It`s now the fourth age of the world.

At long last we reach the entrance, where Amdir is facing off against Toradan.

This is a semi-interactive cutscene.  You can move around freely, but you can`t attack Amdir or anything sensible like that.  All you can do is watch.

This is a semi-interactive cutscene. You can move around freely, but you can`t attack Amdir or anything sensible like that. All you can do is watch.

Toradan seems to be lamenting that Amdir has turned evil. Not wanting to waste an obvious opportunity, I offer Toradan some advice, “Hey! Less talking, more stabbing.”

“All of you stay back! It’s too late for him!”, Toradan says.

Impatiently I add, “He’s wide open. Stab him.

Toradan shakes his head, “I am sorry, my friend, but I must end this.”

“STAB HIM!”, I shout.

Amdir stabs Toradan.

“Not you!”, I say, exasperated.

I know this isn`t the time for interior decorating advice, but I really think these guys are overdoing the whole skull pile thing.

I know this isn`t the time for interior decorating advice, but I really think these guys are overdoing the whole skull pile thing.

Amdir strolls away, leaving Toradan to die.

“Tordan?”, I say as a sit down beside him.

No, I can`t let you die like this! I at least need to give you one last I-Told-You-So before you snuff it.

No, I can`t let you die like this! I at least need to give you one last I-Told-You-So before you snuff it.

“Yes young Hobbit?”, he groans.

“You guys totally suck, you know that, right?”

Toradan winces as he tries to staunch the flow of blood, “Yes. I know.”

Turning evil seems to have done wonders for Amdir’s combat prowess. Maybe this is just his calling in life?

“He is lost to us”, says Toradan.

“I did tell you to stab him.”

He nods and draws in another nasty gurgling breath to speak again, “Find my brethren! Warn them!” And with that he dies.

And so I’m left with Sara. True to her word, he tells me everything she knows, “I got my stick back! I’d have been lost without it.”

And with that she takes off sprinting for the front door. I actually couldn’t catch her if I wanted.

I think that inside of the offices at Turbine there`s a little bell that rings every time someone does this quest, and then everyone stops work to laugh and laugh until they`re short of breath.

I think that inside of the offices at Turbine there`s a little bell that rings every time someone does this quest, and then everyone stops work to laugh and laugh until they`re short of breath.

So, another ranger is dead, Amdir is running free in the service of the Evil That Wussies Do Not Name, and a senile old woman has her stick. I guess I should… head back to town now?

Next time: How am I supposed to explain this mess?

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10Just 10 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Somniorum says:

    “I think she’s trolling me. Which means in this quest Sara Oakheart is basically a cave troll.”

    Quite literally, it seems – the link you gave to her in the Lord of the Rings Online wiki says she “once lived in a cottage on the river in the Trollshaws.”

    This was *completely* intentional on the part of the designers : P

  2. Manticore says:

    It’s not funny, it’s foreshadowing a major reveal later on in Volume 1, at the start of Book 9.

    However, if I recall correctly, these quests weren’t soloable when you were playing, so getting to Book 9 was a bit of a hassle.

    And yes, the Sarah Oakheart quests are awful. They’ve gotten much better with Escort quests, by having the NPC follow you around.

    • Disc says:

      If I recall, they nerfed the early books to be soloable some years back, while adding a booster thing to the later Volume 1 books that gives you a ridiculous boost to your stats, morale and power when going solo. Running my Warspeech Minstrel through the last books was a blast, being nigh-invincible while doing crazy amounts of damage.

      • Joshua says:

        They did indeed nerf these quests to make them soloable, because it was too difficult to find a whole Fellowship to get random quests done throughout the 15 books of Volume I. In addition, some of the later books in this volume have insta-teleports to take you to the next NPC in a quest-chain.

        Despite that, Volume I is STILL the most frustrating book to get completed. Later books tend to have you follow the storyline of the areas themselves, so you’re actually working on the books at the same time as regular quest content, so it’s easy to keep up. Volume I, however, has you running all over the place into areas you’re not going to normally be adventuring in at this point once you get past Book 8 or so. The reason for this problem is that many of these areas were developed to be level 30-40 content, but the Epic questline at this point is level 50. So, there’s little reason to be doing quests here at the level you’re doing the Epic books.

    • Rob S says:

      They actually have a bit of a spoiler about that in this queat.

      As you’re going through the main cavern to see Amdir, you pass a couple of bandits sitting at a table, talking. If you stop and eavesdrop on their speech bubbles, one will say something along the lines of, “Did you see that old hag they brought in the other day? Can you believe she bested five of our men?” (It might only be four men, it’s been a long time since I’ve run this quest.)

      I had run this quest uncountable times until one day I was semi-roleplaying my way through the storyline and walked through the cave instead of the normal run. I caught a glimpse of the speech bubble as I passed and had to stop and turn to reread it.

      So, yes, it seems that Turbine truly is trolling us with this quest.

      • sheer_falacy says:

        That sounds like it would be a nice twist except that I assume that she doesn’t defend herself during this escort quest and instead dies very quickly when attacked, which doesn’t fit the badassery twist at all.

        • Rob S says:

          You’re right about how easily she is defeated here. But the dialogue is there, assuming Turbine hasn’t edited the quest in the past couple of years.

          There’s the level 50 quest mentioned above (Oakheart’s Might) where Sara asks for your help vanquishing the bad guys, but you can sit back and let “Sara the level 50 Avenger” do most of the work for you. At the end, she reveals herself to be a 1,000 year old sorceress (or something) and turns on you.

          It is a bit of a disconnect between Sara the wimp and Sara the badass, but that’s how the quests run. Nobody ever accused Turbine of being 100% coherent in their quest design. :)

          • Joshua says:

            All of her quests are based around the twist that she’s an all-powerful warrior/sorceress pretending to be a useless old woman and you don’t know that. So, allowing her to take a beating that would reveal her true self ruins the surprise, and thus you fail the quests. Sigh.

            This quest actually makes the most sense of all of her quests. She’s there to deliberately thwart you, which is why she walks slowly and essentially stops you from rescuing Amdir.

            If you want to know her backstory, it’s essentially:


            She was a “young” elven woman who was given a magical ring by Sauron that corrupted her (original, isn’t it?) and turned her into a badass servant of the Witch-King named Amarthiel. She’s essentially trying to take over his stewardship of Angmar, which is why the vanilla LOTRO is called Shadows of Angmar. It gets somewhat nonsensical, but there’s basically two evil villains competing for this spot, and one servant who’s working for both of them in a backstabby way.

            The tiny old lady ruse is her mocking a caretaker of that name who was assigned to her by her father while he was trying to “cure” her.

  3. MichaelG says:

    “an even boarder smile”, should be “broader smile”?

  4. tremor3258 says:

    I still think there’s something to the worst escort quest in gaming history having the escortee actually intentionally evil and trying to hurt you.

    It’s delightfully meta if you can make it through without sheer rage at it causing your computer to overheat.

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