Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Greetings

Hello, esteemed readers,

It's been a while since I've updated my diary, but since it's that special time of the year (this year, or the last one, you ask? Take your pick.), I decided to put down my thoughts about my experiences in Middle Earth in the last 12 months. Much has befallen me in that time -- some things I'll treasure for the rest of my stay in these lands, and some things I'd rather forget. But now that I've committed myself to this, I guess I'll just have to remember everything...

At the start of this year, I was a lonely traveler in the land of Dwarrowdelf -- a kinship-less, friendless hunter, learning my lessons the hard way as I trekked the plains of the North Downs and the forests of the Trollshaws. But in March, I heard of a great musical gathering called Weatherstock, in a faraway place known as Landroval. I quickly packed my bags, spent my last copper paying off my debts at the Pony, and set off, not knowing what I would find at the end of my journey.

I arrived in Landroval in pretty much the same state I had been in while journeying in Dwarrowdelf: friendless, penniless, and utterly ignorant of the ways of the land. I soon fell in with unsavory company -- a horde of thieves and wrongdoers, who delighted in terrorizing innocent Free Peoples at large concerts and other gatherings. Beguiled by their leader's words of friendship, I followed them around for about a month. In April, however, I came across a large gathering in the Midgewater Marshes. I watched in fascination as the event, which I heard referred to as "Ales and Tales", unfolded before me. Soon, I made the acquaintance of a livewire of a hobbit called Tinki, who told me all about the Lonely Mountain Band. The very next day, I sent in my application to the kinship.

After that, things changed pretty quickly. My departure from my previous kinship was not a pleasant one, but I no longer cared for their fate. By joining the Lonely Mountain Band, I came in touch with a friendly, lively group of people who loved adventure, music and fun. Journeying with them, I gained more knowledge than I had even known to exist while blundering around in Dwarrowdelf. I found stalwart companions, such as Andeon, Camara and Casinthelion, with whom I joined forces to bring down the great fortresses of the Enemy. I also found a community of fellow musicians, which included Harperella, Lennidhren, Aegthil, Beorbrand, and the rest of BBB and Old Winyards, with whom I took many a stage to delight audiences around Middle Earth (at the expense of my sanity, sobriety and good manners...). Weatherstock, of course, was a blast; I was introduced to some of the best artistes in the land, and listened to numerous manifestations of musical genius.

Now, as an experienced hunter of 75 trainings and an officer in the Lonely Mountain Band, I find myself welcoming new recruits almost on a daily basis, and watching them tread the same paths which I once took. Looking back, I can hardly believe I've been in the kinship for less than a year; I've shared so many experiences with fellow Banders, that it feels like much longer.

So I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks to the Band, for... well, just about everything. Thanks to Lennidhren, Locney, Gaiagil and the rest of the Old Winyards crew, for transforming a young runt of a musician, who could only toot out a few feeble notes on a flute, into a multi-instrumentalist capable of sharing the stage with the best musicians in Middle Earth. Thanks to Andeon and the SNS regulars, for helping me hone my fighting and teamwork skills. My Mentor says I should also thank BBB here, though I disagree -- what have they done for me, besides spiking my drinks with Beorlich produce and refusing to pay me for wearing my hands out on a drum, week after week?

My best wishes for a Happy New Year go out to this amazing community. May the next 12 months bring you all the good things in life, and may you achieve your goals! Safe travels!

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Shire Country Music

Here's some Shire Country Music I've been working on recently. It's what keeps me going these days -- no matter how many times Aegthil and Beor may call me a total dweeb, I am proud to state the fact! It is healthy, rejuvenating, inspirational and good for the soul. It's the reason why bobbits and their chickens are what they are -- ok, that's a downside, I admit... but who cares?!

Anyway, this one's called Bouree. It's a Shire Country Music arrangement of a much older piece written by some gray-headed, no doubt cranky and unpleasant Gondorian scholar called J.S. Bach. I, personally, believe this new arrangement is a huge improvement, though my Mentor would disagree.

So here it is:
.ABC file
.WAV file (audio)

And the original song, in its full glory (notice the four happy, bouncy-looking bobbits on the album cover):

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On trifling and unfounded fears; with additional thoughts on Mirkwood

My Mentor is worried that he may have done something arrogant and stupid. He is, in fact, worried that Beorbrand may fire me from the BBB because of what he did. But when I asked him to stop pulling the hairs from his head and tell me what the matter was, I discovered that, far from being arrogant and stupid, my Mentor had just made yet another brilliant display of his unparalleled genius. I tried to convince him to publish his work, so the world could praise him for his sheer musical ability; but he was so frightened of what Beorbrand might do to me (how nice of him!) that he made me promise not to talk about it anywhere except in my personal memoirs.

So here goes. Get ready to be amazed.
.ABC file
.WAV file (audio)

You may remember this as the song which Beorbrand recently stabbed to death, in his arrangement which involved two (or was it five?) howling bagpipes. Well, in attempting to override this unfortunate mistake, my Mentor included one bagpipe in this arrangement, just to please the Beard and prevent him from stabbing me to death after firing me from BBB. Of course, these fears are purely a product of the imagination -- of course I wouldn't be fired. For one thing, Beor never includes a song on the playlist that has anything less than three bagpipes in it. So this song will never get played, anyway. And besides, I'm just too good a drummer for them to even think of disposing of me.

While these matters musical were getting dealt with, I crossed the river Anduin in a little boat, and took my first steps into Mirkwood. I think I took exactly 10 steps in, to be precise. Then I had to turn back. The whole place reeked of orc droppings. No wonder Aegthil is having such a blast here, I thought -- the stench must have effectively covered up his own smell of Orc Filth. I tried crossing the river again, only to be ordered back into Mirkwood -- by none other than the Lady Galadriel herself! So with a deep obeisance to her august majesty, I ventured back into the Mirk-Eaves. Besides the unbearable smell, the woods turned out to be home ground for an experienced hunter such as myself. But there are many, many orcs to kill... and the mayhem of fighting that's currently going on doesn't seem to put a dent in their numbers.

Well, let's go and see what else these elves want me to do here...
Farewell and safe travels!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Laerdan: The biggest fool in Middle Earth?

Recently, I've been kept running all over Eriador, at the beck and call of His Superior and High-and-Mighty Lordship Elrond of Rivendell and some rascally elf calling himself Laerdan. This Laerdan seems to have been very concerned about the mental illness of his daughter Narmeleth (who, by the way, could knock Aegthil over with a glance -- quite a looker!), and her apparent possession by some evil presence from Angmar.

So after I took the trouble to save this "concerned father" from jail and certain death, he presumptuously began to order me around -- telling me to undertake the most ridiculously aggravating journeys in search of some little thing or other that he lost, which was very important for some reason, and couldn't fall into the above-mentioned evil presence's hands, but was absolutely necessary for saving his daughter, yadda yadda yadda.

Now, I am quite used to this sort of thing, actually -- in fact, it is what most people in Middle Earth have wanted me to do for them so far. So I good-naturedly went about the grueling tasks set before me by Laerdan, and finally found his little thingummy. I retired to the Rivendell guest houses, which were only slightly shabbier than the flet in Caras Galadhon where I had slept a few nights before, confident that Narmeleth would be safe, and that everything would be all right thanks to my skill and courage. Imagine my surprise the next day, when I went to look in on Laerdan -- out of human concern, you know -- and found that he had jumped ship and left! He had left me a note, with the usual yakking about Fate, and Love for his Daughter, which had inspired him to leave and take the thingummy with him... my vision went red. After all the work I'd done, he'd gone and stuffed it! I am now convinced that Laerdan is the biggest fool in Middle Earth -- no matter how much he professes to love his daughter -- and that one of these days he'll meet his unfortunate end, and I'll be too late to save him. I can't always arrive "just in time" -- my karma's not that good, and nor is his.

Oh well... I don't feel like hearing what Elrond will have to say about this. I can almost tell what it's going to be. Time to pack up my bags again... it's going to be a long day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Into Lothlorien

As my mentor probably already mentioned, I recently started growing tired of the endless dwarf-hole that is Moria. So a few days ago, I picked up my belongings from the vault in the Twenty-First hall, bade farewell to all my dwarf acquaintances, and journeyed out through Nud-Melek and into the Dimrill Dale.

Now, at first I wasn't all that excited. Compared to, say, Evendim, the Dale had a pretty bleak appearance. And it was full of orcs, walking around as if they owned the place. Maybe they actually did, even though the dwarves seemed to deny it. Beorbrand says that his ancestors are from the Dale; looking at its current inhabitants, I can't say I'm terribly surprised.

Nevertheless, I was glad to finally see the sun and the sky again. My thirst for adventure carried me past all the orc-encampments smelling like Beor's beard, and finally I reached the outskirts of the Golden Wood! The elves there didn't seem too happy to see me, for some reason, and instead of welcoming me into their forest, they made me clean up their river first. As if it was my fault that the Galadhrim didn't have enough arrows, and on top of that threw all the dead orcs into the Nimrodel! Anyway, they finally let me in through the gate, so I shot a dirty look at the guard and rode in before he could pepper my back with arrows.

Now, journeying through the wood, I can see that it was worth the trouble. As you can see, there are lots of mallorn trees...

And more mallorn trees...

And even more mallorn trees...

And even more... well, you get the idea.

Journeying east, I reached the banks of the majestic river Anduin -- one of my favorite sights here so far!

My tour of the Wood then took me south, towards Caras Galadhon. On the way, I stopped at Cerin Amroth, where I met these two strange-looking people. The dwarf looked like he might have been Gourgini's cousin -- he certainly had a similar attitude towards elves.

And finally, I passed through the gates of Caras Galadhon. What a sight it was! So... many... flets... I got dizzy just looking at it.

I'm hoping to see a lot more of the Golden Wood during my stay here. Hopefully I will soon be able to put my hunter skills at the service of the White Lady, while trying to acquire a taste for elf-music...

In unrelated news, I picked up the Landroval Times this morning and realized, to my alarm, that Aegthil had become a correspondent for said newspaper. Now he calls himself a Roving Reporter and Agony Aunt. What is the world coming to? Doesn't the Landroval Times managing committee realize that this Bard just wants to go out and meet celebrity babes, while spreading scandalous gossip and generally causing trouble (and possibly a revolt among the gossip-loving bobbits)? In his very first article, he claims the Sons of Numenor kidnapped a dorf. But it's clear to me from the article that he's more interested in meeting the Daughters of Numenor, and engaging in undignified and disrespectful conduct towards them, as he always does in front of the ladies. Some people never change...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts from the Mentor: On Leveling

Hello everyone -- this is the Mentor speaking. Just thought I'd share a few of my recent thoughts on my LotRO playing experience.

Anarwald recently took it into his head to see what was on the other side of Moria, and consequently rose (pretty quickly, I should say!) to level 59. Lothlorien is fantastic. I'm expecting Anarwald to give you all sorts of mushy talk about how beautiful the mallorn trees are, and how the whole atmosphere is soothing after being cooped up in a dwarf-hole for a month. But what I found most impressive are the quests and content. I couldn't stop laughing as I saw the XP bar go up, while that lazy, romantic hunter went around gathering flowers, singing to trees, and scolding revelers. But at the same time, it made me reflect on the whole concept of leveling in LotRO.

With the release of Rise of Isengard, the latest expansion, I've seen a general rush among players to reach the required level to start delving into new content. And as for those who already had the appropriate degree of skill... it was amazing to see them go! Level 75 within a week! Now, I generally find the whole business a very sticky issue... sticky as in, I somehow manage to glue myself to a certain level. This reached a climax around the late 40's. With great effort would I pry myself away from 48, only to find myself sticking to 49 for another month or so. Meanwhile, I would watch with chagrin as a fellow hunter went from level 39 to 75 within a month, and immediately started taking on the 'Moors. Of course, the XP boost from the RoI pre-order helped me a bit... but the fact that I'm not a subscriber, and therefore do not have the benefit of rest XP, made things much, much slower. The grind almost ruined my game experience, until I finally hit 50 and was able to start on Moria quests. Things started picking up from there.

Now, with these high-level quests giving me a ton of experience, I'm starting to wonder about the benefits of fast leveling. It seems that the higher you go, the greater the probability that you will go higher still. Hopefully I can get to level 60 soon, so that I can use that fabulous armor I got from my first few Grand Stair runs (yet another benefit of leveling -- raiding and better armor!). Besides, it's easy to get tired of questing in a certain region; I can understand people's desire to level quickly in order to face new and exciting experiences in higher-level areas, instead of being stuck among Angmar's blighted black cliffs for weeks on end fighting Bogbereth spiders, or lazing around Evendim while looking for those frustratingly rare Limrafn to kill for deeds. Also, being in a kinship that holds frequent Role-Playing events, I have experienced the frustration of wanting to sit back and listen to an in-game concert, while knowing I could be questing and accumulating more gold on that ever-present black line at the bottom of my screen. I can imagine that, being at level cap, people would be more willing to devote game-time to chit-chat and music... until the next expansion comes out.

At the same time, though, there are disadvantages. Leveling a character quickly requires a lot of concentration and dedication, and it's easy to miss out on a lot of other stuff ("distractions"). Players start to leave deeds for later, and therefore end up not having a fully fleshed-out character; only at level cap do they start working on virtues and class traits, which would probably have been of great use to them at earlier levels. Another problem is that, for players who suffer chronic altitis, like me, there is absolutely no time to spend on playing alts. And I have just started a love-affair with the lore-master class, too -- too bad, poor Giliarond will have to wait. And what about all the fluff in the game? Turbine gives us so many other sources of entertainment -- festivals, horse-races, a wonderful cosmetic system, housing, you name it! And what about chicken runs?! Anarwald *still* needs to get his Cloak of the Cluck! But the fact is, there's no time to spend on this sort of thing if your priority is to reach level cap as quickly as possible. And I discovered something else recently -- in the deluge of quests I found in Moria, I completely forgot about the epic questline. Now, at level 59, it's time to go back and finish Vol. I Book 8... how embarrassing...

Wow, what a rant that was. I don't think I meant this post to go on for so long. If you've gotten this far without getting bored, Congrats!
I guess the plain and simple fact is, I'm facing a dilemma -- to level fast, or not to. At level 59, what do you think I should do?!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Graveyard smash at the Party Tree!

Last Sunday, I attended Hobbiton Philarmonic's annual Minstrel Mash, a concert to celebrate the coming of the fall season. Predictably, Beorbrand had asked me to join B.B.B. again. I acquiesced, not knowing what was in store for me. So after listening to the lovely songs of the Eriador Music Society and the HP, I found myself dressed in a ridiculous tunic and wearing a ghastly helmet, standing on a table alongside Aegthil, Wrenaya, Beorbrand, Blingamerrydo and Carica, who were similarly garbed. We were quite a spectacle -- and I don't mean that in a good way. What was the Lady Ghingeriel thinking when she asked B.B.B. to play? I was glad the mask was hiding my face -- thank goodness for small mercies! Beor, Aegthil and the rest didn't seem to notice or mind the fact that the crowd was in hysterics over those masks. Their degenerate attitude really troubles me.

However, we soon gave our audience something else to think about! With our specially-prepared setlist, we blew the ladies off their feet and made even the strongest men present collapse in a drunken stupor. At least, that was the impression I got from the stage... er, table. All in all, it was a good time -- I was pleasantly surprised! I do apologize for Aegthil and Beor, though. They were, of course, exercising their tongues, and I even heard talk of sending someone Gourgini in the mail, chopped into little pieces. What a thought! Please rest assured that he will not be in pieces -- that would be a ghastly sight. We'll have to find some other way of cramming him into a mailbox, though...

Of course, I had contributed to the setlist in my own little way. In his last-minute scramble for music, Beor had asked me for a transcription of any spooky song that suited my fancy. I recalled an old battle-cry from the soldiers of Minas Ithil, which I had heard sung during my travels through Gondor; something about a bad moon, storms, trouble, and so on. So I went about transcribing it. Unfortunately, my very down-to-earth and un-romantic Mentor stole the sheet music while I was otherwise occupied, and... altered it a bit. I didn't find out until the day of the concert that he had set it to some idiotic percussive rhythm -- completely unsuited to the mood of the piece! I had no choice but to sing it as it was written. I'll leave you to judge his handiwork for yourselves: Here's the abc file, and here is what it sounds like.

I'll have to be more careful about leaving things lying around in the future. Oh well... our adventures continue. I dread to think of what Beor will come up with in the way of outfits for our next concert.