Shamus Plays LOTRO #24: Shortcut to Marsh Doom

By Shamus
on Aug 14, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

The sun is setting when I crawl out of the bandit lair. Sara Oakheart is nowhere to be seen, which means she swam across this lake and vanished into the woods in the time it took me to riffle through Toradan’s pockets, step over his corpse, and then walk ten paces to the front door of the cave and shove it open.

Whelp, thank goodness that was the only time I`ll run into Sara Oakheart ever.

Whelp, thank goodness that was the only time I`ll run into Sara Oakheart ever.

I kind of feel like I need to report this mess to the proper authorities. But who? Ellie? She’s only interested in poaching. She’d have me hunt down a band of chattering brigand squirrels or something. Jon Brackenbrook? Nah. He doesn’t even care about his own town.

Ah! I can go to constable Underhill.

Congratulations. You`re the closest thing this town has to a responsible adult.

Congratulations. You`re the closest thing this town has to a responsible adult.

I give Underhill the story: Amdir has turned into some sort of super-powerful wizard / wraith / swordsman / hunter / nutjob. He’s got magic, fighting prowess, a sword, and more crazy than a dozen Bilbos. (Bilbi?) All told, my efforts around this city killed a bunch of animals, poisoned the local woods, and released an evil wraith. The only thing I accomplished was that I killed a bandit leader with a hilarious name and saved the life of an old lady who deserves to die.

He’s a bit put out when I explain about the poison and how I stole the ingredients, but he calms down once I explain about Skunkwood.

“The only thing I don’t understand”, I tell him, “is why Toradan came so late. I mean, he said he’d be right behind me, but I was in there most of the day before he showed up.

“Ah. Perhaps I can shed some light on that.”, Underhill says. “Toradan did indeed leave just a few minutes after you, but he was sneaking.”

“Sneaking?”

“Yes. All crouched over and walking on tip-toe.”

“But you saw him anyway, I take it?”

“Well, it was midday and he went right down the middle of the street, so yes. I doubt anyone missed him. Turned quite a few heads with all the stumbling.”

“He fell over?”

“It’s that long cloak of his. Kept getting underfoot. And he couldn’t see where he was going on account of that hood. He kept bumping into people. Then he’d do this little somersault to one side, land in the bushes, then tumble out and keep right on creeping.”

“I guess that explains why he wasn’t around when he was needed.”

“Took him the better part of the afternoon just to get to the end of the street.”

“Well, he’s dead now.”, I say with as much tact as I can muster.

“Alas. Lizbeth at the Comb and Wattle Inn won’t have to decode any more secret messages when he wants some food sent up to his room. I think she really liked those. At any rate, you should let his people know that he’s gone and that Amdir is loose. You should go see Constable Tanglerush in Staddle, she’ll know how to get in touch with the rangers.”

Off to Staddle then. It’s a long hike.

What`s with that flag? Is that the battle standard of the 1970`s Earth Tones brigade?

What`s with that flag? Is that the battle standard of the 1970`s Earth Tones brigade?

“You’ll find the rangers at the mustering cave on the other side of the marshes.”, Tanglerush tells me once I manage to track her down.

“And the rangers hang out there?”

She nods, “I’d deliver the message myself but I’m on duty.”

“And clearly standing in the town square where you have four guards to watch over six people is more important than helping out with an ancient evil that threatens everyone.”

“Pay’s the same for me either way”, she says with a shrug. “The marshes are yonder west.”

“Marshes?”, I say uneasily. “Are they dangerous?”

“Not really. Mostly knee high. Watch out for spiders, though.”

Ugh. I’m not crazy about more spiders, but off we go. Let’s head through the marsh.

I hate humans.

I hate humans.

Damn it, woman. You should have specified that it was knee-high TO A HUMAN.

As promised, there is a cave on the edge of the marsh. On the opposite edge of the marsh.

Man, I was JUST in a cave like this one, and that didn`t go so well.

Man, I was JUST in a cave like this one, and that didn`t go so well.

Inside, we find a familiar scene.

A ranger in his natural habitat. (A pool of his own blood.)

A ranger in his natural habitat. (A pool of his own blood.)

There are only two kinds of rangers in the world:

1) Rangers who have just been in a fight.
2) Rangers who are alive.

The ranger cave is a lot like the bandit cave I raided earlier, except smaller, smellier, and with fewer lights and provisions.

Mundol chokes out his message, “Amdir came here. Please. There is but one ranger left alive here in the marshes. He’s studying the ruins at the center. Warn him. Stop Amdir.”

He lets out a long, ragged breath, pays me a silver and a half, and dies.

Quest rewards are odd sometimes.

Off we go to the ruins then.

Okay, that was a tough fight. But at least the spiders are behind me now.

Okay, that was a tough fight. But at least the spiders are behind me now.

Q: What does an entire nest of spiders – including a spider queen – have in common with my will to live?

A: They both had to die for me to reach this door.

I wipe the spider goop off my shoes and head inside.

Here`s a ranger who is still alive. Let`s see how long he lasts.

Here`s a ranger who is still alive. Let`s see how long he lasts.

As promised, a ranger is here. I give him a polite wave, “So, ranger Renil… Renon… Reeno… Look, can I just call you Ren?”

“What is your business here?”, he says warily.

“I don’t mean to be rude”, I lie, “but why is it that the ruins you’re studying are so much nicer than the cave where you live?”

“Is that what you came here to ask me?”

“Oh right. The message.”, I say. “The other rangers are dead, Admir’s a wraith and trying to kill you, and I’m only helping you because I need the money.”

“This is dire news indeed! We must go at once to the chieftain of my kindred. The Bree-man call him Strider.”

“Neither of us are Bree-men. What are we supposed to call him?”

“Come, I will lead you back to town through the caves.”

“That sounds like a huge pain in the ass. Why would we go through the caves?”

“It’s a shortcut!”, Ren exclaims.

“It’s a straight shot from these ruins to the edge of the marsh. How can this way be shorter than that?”

“The caves go under the marsh.”, he explains.

“They do… what?”

Forgive the mild plug, but I can’t let this pass. Way back before I started Stolen Pixels, I helped out on a webcomic called Chainmail Bikini. It was about a bunch of D&D players going through a shamefully horrible campaign. In that campaign – which if you remember from the previous sentence I was deliberately trying to make horrible – they had to go through caverns under a swamp.

Tunnels. Going under mud and water. I don’t think you need a degree in physics with a minor in common sensology to spot the flaw in this.

This way! Hurry! I`m way overdue for my idiotic death!

This way! Hurry! I`m way overdue for my idiotic death!

“Come.”, Ren says, “This way! We must hurry.”

“Woah. Come? As in with you? Are you saying you want an escort through your own nonsense tunnels?”

This escort quest is completely different from the Sara Oakheart escort quest I did last time. See, Sara torments the player by walking pathetically slow. RenioLOL here suicidally sprints from one fight to the next without waiting for his tiny little health bar to fill up again. Totally different sort of griefing. For variety.

Game developers: HAVE THE NPC FOLLOW THE PLAYER, INSTEAD OF THE OTHER WAY AROUND!

Also: DUH!

Ren leads me down into a tunnel, then suddenly stops to remark that one of the torches has gone out.

Dude, they`re torches not lightbulbs. They can`t just stay on all the time.

Dude, they`re torches not lightbulbs. They can`t just stay on all the time.

“So? Are we moving in? You’ve got a torch already. Let’s get going.”

Down, down he leads us on the twisting staircase, stopping to light a torch every ten paces.

We get near the bottom and I can’t contain my curiosity any longer, “Just so I’m clear on this… have we gotten to the shortcut part yet?”

At the bottom of the staircase is a pool of stagnant water. And some spiders.

Yeah. Reminds me of a certain group of wilderness protectors I know.

Yeah. Reminds me of a certain group of wilderness protectors I know.

It’s hard to see in this screenshot because he won’t shut up about the stupid torches, but at the end of those white lines are spiders dropping down to ambush us.

“Is this the shortcut part?”, I ask as I hammer away at the slippery spider carapace.

“Quickly, follow me! Through the water! Don’t worry. It’s only knee deep!”

Remember: This is a shortcut.

Remember: This is a shortcut.

I hate human beings so very much.

The corridor twists and turns through spider webs and nests. At the end of a long trek and much bug smashing we at last come to an open chamber. Amdir is waiting for us.

“Whew. This is a huge time saver.”, I say with relief to Amdir, “I thought we were going to have to track you down.” It’s not going to be fun to fight a magical wraith, but at least we’re done with the damn spiders.

I step forward with my sword, “Now come here and take your medicine.”

But Ren walks closer and tells him, “Amdir, my friend. I know it is not really you that does these things.”

“I am not what you once believed.”, Amdir replies.

I believed you were a massive liability, and I stand by that assessment.

I believed you were a massive liability, and I stand by that assessment.

“Yes. Yes you are.”, Ren says, stepping closer.

“No he isn’t!”, I growl.

“Let me help you.”, Ren says.

Amdir gives Ren a poke in the guts with his sword. Ren stops trying to be helpful.

“Are you idiots done?”, I ask impatiently. I point my sword at Amdir, “Why don’t you try that move on me you chickenshit team-killing clodpole?”

“Morin will take care of you!”, he cries as he dashes for the door.

“Who?”, I say with a shrug, “I don’t see any…”

Truly, this is the shortest of cuts.

Truly, this is the shortest of cuts.

Bloody hell!

WHAT IS IT WITH YOU GUYS AND YOUR SPIDERS! I WAS FIGHTING SPIDERS THE DAY I LEFT THE SHIRE! I’VE BEEN FIGHTING SPIDERS EVER SINCE! IT’S NOTHING BUT SPIDERS WITH YOU GUYS! GIVE IT A REST ALREADY.

Spiders and a useless ranger. It`s like a running gag. Or a recurring nightmare.

Spiders and a useless ranger. It`s like a running gag. Or a recurring nightmare.

Well, that went about as well as expected. With the house-sized spider dispatched, I turn my attention to Ren.

“Amdir runs free.”, he gasps. “You must get word to Strider!”

“Ren”, I ask him, “Are we to the shortcut part yet?”

I`d bury you, but... I`m not gonna.

I`d bury you, but... I`m not gonna.

He doesn’t answer.

So… off to Bree then?

This is onl;y a small part of the town. It`s actually huge and confusing to navigate on your first visit.

This is onl;y a small part of the town. It`s actually huge and confusing to navigate on your first visit.

Bree is the main human city. Places like Archet, Combe, and Staddle are just tiny villages compared to Bree, with its wide paved streets and imposing two-story buildings.

Rumor has it that this Strider character is hanging out at an inn called The Prancing Pony.

The pony on that sign doesn`t look like it`s prancing so much as boxing.

The pony on that sign doesn`t look like it`s prancing so much as boxing.

This is screwed up. All of the other rangers I’ve met were at least pretending to be useful. They were out in the field, losing battles and wasting time like real champs. Let’s review the ones we’ve met so far:

Amdir: Turned evil
Halros: Creepy goblin taxidermist
Toradan: Dead
Mundol: Dead
Ren: Dead

I guess Halros wins by default, with his amazing three-goblin killing streak.

But now I’m going to meet their leader. The king of the dipshits. I have to wonder what sort of loser would command a force like this. From inside a tavern.

For context: We`re technically ahead of the four Hobbits right now. Within the story of Lord of the Rings, they`re somewhere between the Old Forest and Bree which this quest chain is taking place.

For context: We`re technically ahead of the four Hobbits right now. Within the story of Lord of the Rings, they`re somewhere between the Old Forest and Bree which this quest chain is taking place.

Amazingly, he’s not passed out at the bar. I ask the barkeep and he directs me to Strider’s room. I’m not looking forward to talking to another dull-witted poser, but I am looking forward to getting this over with.

As promised, Strider is in his room.

OH

OH

OH.

EMM

EMM

EMM.

GEE

GEE

GEE.

He has the face of an angel. A rugged, bad-boy angel with broad shoulders and strong hands. And long dark hair. And a roguish, unshaven look. And… is it hot in here?

“Can I help you, young Hobbit?”, he asks.

He’s already noticed that I’m young. What a flirt. He’s got a deep, confident voice.

“Oh I hope so.”, I giggle.

“I am on an urgent errand and I dare not tarry here for too long. What is it you need?”, he says.

I’m so excited. He’s actually here on business and not just sitting around slurping ale and bribing strangers to do his job for him. I’ll bet he’s seen all sorts of exotic places and defeated great beasts with his big strong muscles and his longsword…

Strider clears his throat and I remember he asked me a question a second ago. He gestures for me to come closer, “You’ve come from Midgewater swamps, I take it? What news do you bring?”

Oh my! He’s not a mouth-breathing dunce, either. His eyes tell me that he’s the kind of man who knows more than he lets on. “You are a clever one! How did you know?”, I ask.

He nods, “I’ve been in those lands in many seasons, and I know the scent of them.”

Horrified, I look down and realize I’ve spent most of the evening soaking in bog water. I’ve still got bits of spider sticking to my shirt, and mossy bits are clinging to me all over.

“Excuse me.”, I say in a terrified voice before dashing out of the room.

I charge out of the inn, knocking down a few patrons who are too self-important to dive out of the way. I kick open the door and out into the night air. The sun has gone down. I’m worried I’m going to be too late.

Frantically I search around for a town guard. Eventually I find one guarding some stupid fountain.

Don`t make me call for the first-watcher!

Don`t make me call for the first-watcher!

“THE AUCTION HOUSE!”, I scream, grabbing the bottom of his shirt and pulling him over.

“W-what?”, he asks with bewilderment as he struggles to back away from me.

“TELL ME WHERE IT IS OR DIE!”

He points down the street and I release him with a shove, sending him backwards towards the fountain.

With regards to your toes, I`ll take your word for it.

With regards to your toes, I`ll take your word for it.

“DRESSES. NOW.”, I scream at the auction lady a few minutes later. Stunned, she blinks at me a few times. Finally I feel the need to add, “OR DIE!”

I have just barely enough. I strip off my old clothes and fling them over my shoulder. If the people running the auction house didn’t want me doing this, they should have put up a sign forbidding it.

I slip into my new dress. It’s a tight fit but it was still easier to wear than to pay for. Panic sets in again when I realize that none of the 32 pair of shoes I have with me will go with this outfit.

Arg!

This is okay. I can do this. Hobbits can get away with going barefoot. Hopefully Strider likes the traditional look.

With my last few coins I get some dye and color my hat to match.

Check me out. I`m more irresistible than the call of the One Ring.

Check me out. I`m more irresistible than the call of the One Ring.

Right. Now I’m off to get my man.

Next time: The THRILLING CONCLUSION to the ADVENTURES OF LULZY!

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201737 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. MichaelGC says:

    Whilst there were obvious problems using the One Ring as a questgiver sigil, I’m not sure that Constable Underhill’s reversed Internet Explorer icon represents a big improvement.

  2. sofawall says:

    Unless you’re making an uncommonly subtle programming joke, I assume the hover text on dying Mundol is supposed to say he is in a pool of his own blood, not a bool.

  3. Rodyle says:

    How deep has our poor Lulzy sunk, that she thinks that that man looks attractive?

    Eh, we all know it. Knee-deep… for humans, at least

    • Joshua says:

      Yeah, I think the equivalent would be a human woman lusting after someone 12′ tall and around 800 lbs. You might think they look attractive, but you’d never want to bump uglies.

      • Viktor says:

        I mean, male basketball players don’t exactly have trouble finding dates, even if they’re 2′ taller than the average woman. If hobbits are 4′ or so, that’s less than the difference between Lulzy and Viggo Mortinson.

  4. Hector says:

    On a complete side note, so much anguish has been shared over poorly-designed MMO quests. It’s interesting to trace the path back and see just how unpolished so many games were (or still are). Many of them failed to properly design and balance quests, or failed to take into account that you can’t reasonably group up for the content given how poor the social interaction tools are, that often overpowering the content became the only solution.

    Some MMO’s, like SWtOR, even built that into the game on a more-or-less permanent basis.

  5. MichaelGC says:

    Wait a moment!

    I am on an urgent errand and dare not tarry for too long.

    His urgent errand is that of waiting right where he is! He dare not tarry – or put another way, wait? Surely he dare not not-wait, for fear of missing Frodo!

    He might be pretty, but admittedly impressive olfactory geolocation aside, are we certain he’s the sharpest sword in the smithy?

    • Incunabulum says:

      He’s the sharpest *Ranger* we’ve seen so far.

    • Gaius Maximus says:

      Well, it’s a bit unclear exactly where Strider was while Frodo and company were in the Old Forest. He was spying on them by the Road when they came back to it with Bombadil after escaping the Barrow, and he slipped over the Gate behind them when they entered Bree. Maybe he’d been staying in Bree and going out to patrol the Road each day, but he might also have been camping in the Wild and watching the Road.

    • tremor3258 says:

      It’s been a little bit – isn’t Gandalf overdue for meeting in Bree at this point as well? He may be investigating that.

  6. Viktor says:

    I can think of a few ways to end up with stone tunnels running under a marsh, but that’s my industry and the ways to do it are all ridiculously implausible without massive human intervention.

    • King Marth says:

      Transmute Mud to Rock makes it really easy, but that’s a 5th level spell and Lord of the Rings tops out at 6th character level (which gives access to 3rd level spells, no matter which level of the dungeon you’re on. Level.).

    • guy says:

      Well, you could do it via tunneling through the bedrock under the swamp, I would think. They look to be elven ruins, and the Noldor were pretty capable of large-scale engineering projects.

      • Disc says:

        I can’t recall if there was any Word of God specifically for the tunnels, but the ruins scattered around the Bree-land area are more or less implied to be what remains of the Cardolan kingdom. It’s been a while since I’ve played, but the tunnel architecture also reminded me of some inside-building instances in Annuminas and around Lake Everdim.

    • tremor3258 says:

      All you need is a set of tunnels leading into some sort of spongy rock layer underneath, don’t you, to assure drainage? Mammoth Cave is sort of under some rivers, and I can guarantee Kentucky can be marshy.

  7. MrGuy says:

    I’m no heraldry expert, but I seem to recall that, with that pose shown (standing on two back legs, two forlegs raised) would properly be called The Rampant Pony.

    Which is also the name of my Lulzy cover band.

    • MichaelGC says:

      That’s right for most animals, but for some no good reason, when it’s a horse in that pose you’d use ‘forcené’. So if Butterbur were alliteratively adamant he should probably have gone for ‘The Forcené Filly’.

  8. Content Consumer says:

    WHAT IS IT WITH YOU GUYS AND YOUR SPIDERS! I WAS FIGHTING SPIDERS THE DAY I LEFT THE SHIRE! I’VE BEEN FIGHTING SPIDERS EVER SINCE! IT’S NOTHING BUT SPIDERS WITH YOU GUYS! GIVE IT A REST ALREADY.

    The inhabitants of the entire region have been breeding them. See, the bears were getting out of hand, and they needed something to keep down the bear population. Of course, the bears were only getting out of hand because they’d introduced hundreds of wolves into the area. And granted, they only added wolves because the giant frogs were getting a little stroppy… look, there was a clearly logical train of events going on here. Don’t blame me.

  9. Since it was mentioned here, just read through CB and it really seemed like it should have been longer than that. :V

  10. Zaxares says:

    I hate to break it to you, dear Lulzy, but Strider only has eyes for elf maids. ;)

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Pssst,Shamus,you turned the comments off for the new Diecast.

    I bet its so that no one would correct you on:

    because it’s a very unique and experience

    Well your plan failed.

  12. The plural for Bilbo isn’t Bilbi, but Bilboseses.

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