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?!