I thought it would be useful as an introduction, to jot down a few thoughts about regular groups for levelling or running instances. A quick run through of the pros and cons, and our decisions for our group, as well as a few things you may need to consider. Obviously, our particular focus is on LOTRO, but this is fairly universally applicable to any such groups.
Levelling Group Pros and Cons
For several years a few of us have said how cool it would be to do a dwarf levelling group. Indeed when we began our original dwarf levelling group of Izbaruk, Haki, and Anlafski, 3 years ago, it was as a four piece, hoping to find a couple more, but within a few levels we were down to a trio and remained so right through to the various level caps. Often the problem is that many people like dungeon groups, but a levelling group is hard to assemble, and requires quite a lot of organisation, and discipline to not get ahead or behind your fellow players. It can be very tough when you are enthused with your new character to put it aside for another week, fortnight, or month.
On the plus side, these groups can complete things very quickly together, and the usual road blocks to the player, such as fellowship, or small fellowship content are just rolled on through. It is very satisfying grouping up together and completing content on level as it was intended, and makes you appreciate that there is some great content out there to be enjoyed, and areas people dreaded solo, such as Dol Dinen and Angmar, become your favourite zones full of challenges for you and your friends. The other brilliant thing about these groups is learning to play your class in a group. Appreciating the threat and healing mechanics, and how your class can contribute to the group. And whoever heard of healers managing to complete their res and healing deeds, tanks completing their taunt deeds, and dps and support classes learning the nuances of threat and CC management, before they get to level cap! In fact, it’s even better than that, when learning together with the same group, you very quickly begin to rely on each other and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses as a team.
Setting your expectations
Over the years, we slowly have found a few other friends who have thought it was a cool idea. A few throw away comments later, and we had a resolution to finally try it. It might sound silly, but finding players with a similar goal to you is quite important. If your aims are different then, long-term, this could prove an issue.
Having a think through the pros and cons and our personal circumstance it seemed wise to try to limit our play sessions, at least to begin with, to once a month. I know this sounds like a long time, but by the time we factor in holidays, illness, work, children, social lives, playing our main characters, and of course having some time to complete the ‘homework’ for the next session, it seems to be fairly appropriate. I hope at some point we might be able to sneak an extra cheeky event in here or there, perhaps in the winter months, but for a basis, and a start, this seems to work. I think that the key to success is to set yourselves something you can achieve all the time, and be realistic about it. If there is a new expansion out in a few months, and you know you’ll not be able to keep up a weekly appointment, set them further apart to allow you time for your other gaming and characters, or plan for a break then.
What sort of Group Make Up?
There are a lot of considerations to your group. What classes or races are you all going to play. At low-level it doesn’t matter, but as you get higher you will probably need a balanced team. As a dwarf only group, we have to pick a carefull mix, as we miss many of the main buff, de-buff, and CC classes. However, we do have options. With a healing Runekeeper, we can cover some of the losses a class like captain brings with a minstrel in harmony stance playing buffer, dps and spot healer, and they have the versatility of dropping back to full healer, or going into warspeech for dps. We have a second Rune-keeper which can, as part of the dps rotation, provide some debuffing, and some very minor CC. Finally, if stronger CC is needed, a hunter can provide support when traited carefully, and backed up by the minstrel. It is perhaps not ideal, or enough for raids, but in the 6 man environment it can suffice, and can often be an opportunity to try out an aspect of a class that players are not always able to try in the standard group. For example, how many hunters get asked to CC?
You Groups Focus
You need to work our what sort of content you are going to play. Are you going to completely level together, or meet for set events and work on group content, just do instances, or landscape fellowship quests too? Are you all VIP, is there some content restricted? We opted for meeting for 95%+ Fellowship quests, both instance and landscape based, and very keen to see this all ‘On level’ again as some of us had 3 or more years ago. This approach involves a little homework, including gaining a level here or there, and opening up various prerequisite quests on our own, and then working on the group stuff when we meet up. On a few occasions, especially with some of LOTRO’s epic books, it can be easier to stay together as a group for a few solo portions, as often there are a series of fellowship quests, joined together by solo quests in twos and three, and the solo elements can be very quickly dealt with in the group, especially if you have and hunter and their ports with you, so as not to waste the group’s time, and string closely linked content over too many play sessions.
Finally, what level do you start? The sweet spot for us seemed to be the early to mid 30′s. We missed the Great Barrow and Lonelands instances (the former now scales to level cap, so it’s never too late for it), but those could be a great starting place, and in the early 30′s you can hit the North Downs, Fornost, followed by Annuminas, and Angmar, which are all full of landscape and instance based group content.
Organising the Events
Some poor sap is going to have to do it, or perhaps you want to rotate the responsibility? Hopefully, if this idea in any way enthuses you, you can use some of the activity plans I am creating for us, but it can be tough working out what to do and when. I started with a rough outline path off the top of my head to for things to do up to level 50, and there is a lot. With the Epic books, Instances, and landscape fellowship quests, I think we will struggle to fit everything in and not overlevel it. As a result we are going to prioritize non-scaling instances, epic books, and landscape quests, which means we may have to save one or two of the scaleable instances if, and when, we come to a quieter spot, but at least this way we get to try the instances at ‘our level’.
I then break the outline path down by level and area into things I think we can achieve in 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, and this is our approximate play time. From then on, it’s a case of finding out the exact details of the quests and distributing it around your fellow players. For this you can choose whichever source you prefer. The LOTRO lorebook is useful, but my favourite is the LOTRO wiki. Do take care to check some of this in-game, as often things get altered, or changed over the years and some sources can be out of date.
Certainly even after level 50 we have many instances, and Epic book instances and skirmishes, in Moria, the same in Mirkwood, the ‘In their absence’ cluster, so we could be hitting our mid 60′s before we get space to try some of these!
That’s all Folks
I hope this has perhaps enthused you all to try out or organise a regular group. It is a great way to see the content that often gets skipped, and its a great way to learn a new class. Most importantly though, its such a lot of fun, and I believe the way the game is supposed to be played.
Thanks for reading