RP-ing in LoTRO
When not working on Neo-Khuzdul translations, or reading Tolkien’s works for the gazillionth time, I often jump into Lord of the Rings Online where I Role-Play a dwarf (honestly, what else?) from the Grey Mountains.
It’s something I greatly enjoy doing, as it allows me to slip into the mind of a dwarf and RP to my hearts delight. Though I do enjoy questing and crafting and I’m in awe of the epic-story line the good people at Turbine have made for us, my favorite thing above all in LoTRO has to be Role-Playing.
When you spend some time RP-ing in LoTRO you quickly notice that there are different styles of RP-ers in this wonderful world. Each RP-er has a set of skills that sets them apart from other RP-ers, some more outspoken than others. In my view a good RP-er in LoTRO is the person that is able to find a decent balance in these skills. Here’s my view on them:
- Lore-wise: There are RP-ers that focus mainly on the world of Tolkien and its lore. These are the people that know their Gabilgathol from their Tumunzahar, and have the ability to fill their RP lines with the tiniest details of Tolkien’s works. I know a few brilliant lore-wise RP-ers; the best of them however only use this skill moderately and don’t go about spamming Middle-Earth with their book-smarts.
- Empathy: In my view one of the most important skills of a good RP-er. The capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by other players, be it via their emotes or (and this is likely far more frequent) through their lines – and act on these appropriately.
- Patience: An underrated skill. Someone once told me that a good RP-er is like a tiger waiting for the good moment to jump its pray. I do believe there is much truth in this saying as I honestly feel there is nothing worse than a RP-er that continuously turns the story toward their own character before the situation calls for it. This is all about timing and respect for the evolving story.
- Acting-skill: After RP-ing a character for a while your character often slowly get’s many traits of yourself, only natural off course. Distancing your real life self from your character, or rather, distancing your character from your real life self is often not as easy as it looks at first. Think of it as if you are an actor and have been cast a role (it is “role play” after all). To play your character you must study who he/she is, what makes them tick, their history, their style, their personal experiences that have shaped them. These items can be inspired by your RL self off course, but ultimately must see to fit in the world of Middle-Earth and your character. Those RP-ers that often have impressed me the most in LoTRO are those that have made their characters “real”, by acting as their character and not necessarily as themselves. Giving their characters (at least) as many flaws and weaknesses as they would have qualities and strengths. It often isn’t easy to “expose” your character and make them weaker, however it makes them a lot more interesting and “real” to others around you, as opposed to being the one-millionth hero out for revenge.
- Tolerance: Every RP-er in LoTRO will one day find him or herself in a situation where another RP-er launches a line into the ongoing RP-session that either doesn’t fit or breaks the momentum of the RP-session completely. When such moments happen…. you leave the Prancing Pony. I kid, I kid… when such moments happen you have a choice as a RP-er, you a) continue the RP-session as if nothing happened b) try to fit in the line as best as you can c) end the RP-session. Unless this is the x time that this kind of thing happens I would always suggest you go for a) or b), depending on the topic at hand. Reason for this is that I believe a good RP-session sometimes just happens when you least expect it, and by throwing in the towel at the first bump in the road you often miss out on some excellent RP further down that road.
- Preparation: Before you jump into RP, make your character 3-dimensional by developing the basics. This doesn’t need to be a 20 page biography, but do try to think of “where am I from?”, “how old am I?”, “what are my strengths and qualities?”, “what are my weaknesses and flaws?”, “what have I witnessed?” etc.. .. I find that the more in depth you make your character, the easier you will find it to RP with them. With some players a lot of these questions are answered at the character-creation screen. Others write down the basics and improvise the rest as they go along. Both are fine, just beware you don’t jump into RP as a blank page, as in those cases you might often revert back completely to the person behind the keyboard, or the cliché “dorf”, instead of the complex and interesting character waiting to be RP-ed.
It would be easy to dictate how dwarves should be played, based on characters such as Thorin or Gimli. But I’m not going to do that. Main reason behind this is that not every dwarf in Middle-Earth is like Thorin and Gimli. In addition, and equally important, YOU are the one doing the RP. And I’m convinced everyone has a great RP-er within them (even if he/he might be hidden very thoroughly), you just need some tips and tricks to find him/her.
There are specific traits however that make a dwarf a dwarf though, separating them from the Elves, Hobbits and Men of this fantasy world. I believe if we try to focus on these traits in a bit more detail by asking ourselves some key-questions, it will reveal (by magic) that inner RP-er, giving you a blue-print of how your character could be played.
1- What Hall does your dwarf hail from?
The first thing that strikes you when you review the options in LoTRO is that Turbine limits the options to different Mountain ranges where dwarves would have dwelt, instead of using the names of the seven clans of the dwarves.
I believe this wasn’t done lightly. This choice has some pro’s but also some con’s.
I don’t know the actual reason behind this choice (anyone from Turbine reading this is welcome to comment of course), but it would seem logical NOT to have players select one of the seven clans, for several reasons. Firstly, by the end of the Third Age, there would have been far fewer Firebeards and Broadbeams around than most other clans. Secondly, the vast majority of the dwarven characters in Tolkien’s works are Longbeards. And lastly, four out of seven of these clans (Stiffbeards, Ironfists, Blacklocks and Stonefoots) live far in the East and would have rarely been seen in the lands shown by LoTRO.
Though, granted, these Eastern dwarves would have been seen more in the late third age than at any other time in History: “But now Frodo often met strange dwarves of far countries, seeking refuge in the West. They were troubled, and some spoke in whispers of the Enemy and of the Land of Mordor.” (FoTR, The Shadow of the Past). Seeing that Turbine uses Mountain ranges in this option, this quote from FoTR would have allowed them to use “The Red Mountains” (where many of the dwarves of the East would have come from), as one of the options. Unfortunately “The Red Mountains” is not an option in the game, we do have 5 other options, let’s review them in a bit more detail….
- Of the Blue Mountains – “Your home is in Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains, where there had once been two great dwarf-kingdoms and where the kinsmen of Thráin and his son Thorin Oakenshield lived in exile after Smaug drove them from the Lonely Mountain.” – If you want to play a Firebeard or Broadbeam dwarf, this is likely the logical choice for you. “Where there had once been two great dwarf-kingdoms” refers to Gabilgathol (Belegost) and Tumunzahar (Nogrod), homes of the Broadbeam and Firebeard dwarves. We know these clans, though ravished by several events lived on in fewer numbers, many moving to Khazad-dûm. When the Balrog drove out the dwarves of Moria these clans would have likely either followed the Longbeards or resettled Halls of their own in their native Blue Mountains. It seems the folks at Turbine went along with that idea as when you roam through the region of Ered Luin you will be able to spot far away Halls in the West which you can’t get to (Gabilgathol or Tumunzahar of old rebuild ?) You could off course also be a Longbeard who chose to remain in the Blue Mountains after Erebor was reclaimed. Going for a Firebeard or Broadbeam character is bold choice, though an extremely interesting one. These clans excelled in smith-craft (even more so then other clans), so when you love crafting, you might want to give this choice a go and make your character a Firebeard or Broadbeam. Going for a Longbeard of the Blue Mountains is just as interesting though, as it sets you apart from other Longbeards, as your family (or perhaps you individually) did not heed the call of King Dáin to return to Erebor, perhaps unwilling to leave behind what you had build up, or content with life… Whatever the reason is, you would have been the rare exception to the rule, so give a careful thought as to “why” you didn’t follow the rest of your clan-brothers and sisters.
Of the Lonely Mountain – “You hail from Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, where Smaug the Golden made his Lair until Thorin Oakenshield reclaimed it for his people. There does Dáin Ironfoot now rule as King under the Mountain. “- The safe option in a way, as the majority of the dwarves would have dwelt here by the end of the third age. On the other hand, you need to ask yourself the question “what is a dwarf of Erebor doing in places like Ered Luin, Bree and the Shire?” Is he a trader? Perhaps and adventurer or trying to settle in these parts?
- Of the Iron Hills – “You come from the Iron Hills, settled by dwarves as a refuge from the Cold-drakes, and whence came Dáin Ironfoot, King under the Mountain, kinsman of the great Thorin Oakenshield.” – Though the Iron Hills had been a colony of the Longbeard Dwarves since the early years of Khazad-dûm, around the year 2500 of the Third Age Grór son of Dáin I founded an independent kingdom here. At the time of the events of LoTRO however these halls would have been a shadow of their former self, as most of the Dwaves would have gone with King Dáin to live in Erebor. So again, choosing for a dwarf of the Iron Hills is setting you apart from the main stream. Ask yourself why this is ? The answers should give your character some “meat” and him/her more detailed.
- Of the Grey Mountains – “You are from Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains, the chief of which is Mount Gundabad, from whence came Durin the Deathless, first Father of the Dwarves. Your kindred returned to the Mountains after the Dragons perished. “- Most of the dwarves would have left these mountains by the time of the events in LoTRO, settling in the Iron Hills first and later on at Erebor when it was reclaimed. Picking this option adds two distinct features to your character 1) You have experience with Dragons 2) Your hatred of Orcs and Dragons is likely unrivaled – as the Holy site of Mount Gundabad now defiled by Orcs is ever in sight. – These would have been hardened dwarves, and you would have had a good reason for staying, being…. “In T.A 2210 King Thorin I, learning that most of his people were gathering in the Grey Mountains, left the Lonely Mountain to join the Dwarves to the north, for those mountains were rich and little explored. ” … “riches”. It would not be an easy life to remain in these drake and orc infested lands, but a profitable one it likely would have been, if you don’t mind a bit of risk.
- Of the White Mountains – “You are from the southwestern halls of Ered Nimrais, the White Mountains in the south bordering the lands of Andrast. Though your kingdom lies far from the central mountains where Men once dwelt, the rumor of the Oathbreakers has given your realm an ill name.” – This is a strange choice I always found. As it wasn’t until Gimli returned to the White Mountains at the start of the 4th Age that these mountains would have been settled by Dwarves. Also the Turbine description of this choice refers more to the men that dwelt there, than to the actual dwarven population. Now, of course, we can’t always follow lore, otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a game. So Turbine has added their own hall, “Zigil-jabâl”, in the White Mountains. If you follow the epic line, you will run into one or two dwarves that mention this hall. No need to look for it in Tolkien’s works, as you won’t find it. Now, we can assume that some dwarves took refuge in these mountains after the fall of Khazad-dûm. So, this option gives you a bit of carte blanche really, allowing you to fill in much of the blanks the way you see fit. Personally I believe it might have been better to change this to the Red Mountains, giving folks a chance to pick an Eastern kindred dwarf, but I understand their choice however, so I’m not complaining here.
- So I can’t play an Eastern Dwarf? Of course you can! Who’s stopping you? Just pick one of these above options and tell folks that ask you were raised there but born in the East… there are a zillion options here. Just have fun with it.
2- What age is your Dwarf?
The introduction quest of LoTRO tells us that we would have been around at the time Thorin left on the quest for Erebor.
This took place in T.A 2941, so that would make us at least 78. However, we know newborns don’t travel, in fact any dwarf under the age of 65 would have to stay put and not go out on adventures (hence why Gimli didn’t come with his father Glóin on their quest to reclaim Erebor). So that would make us at least 143. Seeing that dwarves die round the age of 250, this “limitation” would kind of have written much of your life story already, perhaps limiting the RP we had in mind.
So, what if you want to play a younger dwarf… one that might still want to raise a family (for those around the age of 90). Just ignore the introduction quest, is my advice on that one. I know this all starts a finely laid out path by the good folks at Turbine, but if it honestly does not serve your fantasy as RP-er, ignore it. In the end YOU make your character what it is, not Turbine… and yes, not even lore. While I hear rocks being gathered by the lore-buffs for a good stoning of the Dwarrow Scholar, let me explain why I feel lore should not hinder your character in LoTRO.
Firstly, the world of Middle-Earth of Tolkien’s books is not what we see in LoTRO. If it were we wouldn’t see Hobbits east of Bree (with the exception of those of the fellowship themselves), nor any dwarves in Lothlorien for that matter, nor a thriving dwarven colony in Moria, nor dwarves riding horses by the hundreds, etc… . If we are to RP in the world of LoTRO I believe we must first respect the world created for us by Turbine. A world in which things differ from lore, so you can enjoy a tremendously fun game. Should we throw everything over board and have flying horses and dwarf-elven mixed marriages? No, we should not. Merely using your common sense and trying to stay as close to lore as you can, yet giving yourself some space to play with your own fantasy in the world of LoTRO.
Some examples I can think of: A good friend of mine loves playing a dwarven female, and it must be said, she does a tremendous job at it too. If we were to strictly follow lore, we couldn’t have dwarven females running about in Middle Earth, they would have been fiercely protected and shielded within the halls of her husband or father. Hence Turbine not even allowing this option in the character creation screen. Yet, my friend here (yes, talking about you Fryjpora) has made such a wonderful RP story that justifies her being out there in Middle-Earth, as opposed to being locked up in a Hall. Who are any of us to strike that down? In fact it should be applauded, as it brings an amazing flavor to the game. In short, try to respect the writings of Tolkien as much as you can, but don’t shy away from adding to them, as Turbine has also done themselves on occasion.
3 – Are there any tips I can take into account when playing a dwarf?
- Hating Elves: Yes, most dwarves aren’t fond of Elves, not really a secret. Yet, that doesn’t mean every single dwarf would swing his axe in the air at the very sight of one. If you look at Tolkien’s writings dwarves are respectful toward elves, even if they aren’t their cup of tea. If you must play the elf-hating dwarf, which is your good right, try making it personal. Maybe there was an elf that treated you badly in the past and you never got over it. Try to avoid the old “an elf killed my family and I’m out for revenge”-story, as it does get a bit old (nor would it make much sense). Be inventive; think out of the Hall 🙂
- Talking like your average Glaswegian: Yes, you can say “lad” or “lass”, people won’t drop like flies if you do. Some claim it isn’t lore and dwarves don’t use the word “lad”. Well, that’s incorrect, they do (though rarely). There are in fact two occurrences of the word “lad” spoken by dwarves (both in the Hobbit). Thorin refers to himself as “a fine adventurous lad” (in chapter 1. An Unexpected Party), and Balin refers to the company as “lads”(in chapter 8. Flies and Spiders). So using the word “lad” while RP-ing a dwarf isn’t a crime, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. The issue is that you sound like your average Glaswegian and half those around you have no clue what you are on about. So, as long as you ensure folks can actually understand what you are saying, I don’t have much of a problem with Glaswegian-style-words myself. If we were to follow the typical Tolkien dwarf, like Thorin and Gimli, we would not go binge drinking with our characters, nor would we speak in clearly defined Scottish accents. In fact we would be rather long-winded most of the time, with a tremendous love for strong adjectives and never ending speeches. All I can add here is that it’s your call, but if you go for the “dorf”, then don’t go overboard either, as you’ll quickly fall in a caricature of a dwarf and perhaps might not be as interesting for yourself and others in the long run.
- Animals: Dwarves aren’t fond of any type of beast and see them more as a tool than a being with proper feelings. A dwarf wouldn’t willingly mount a horse. So what are we to do with all these ponies and goats thrown at us? My advice is, embrace Turbine’s fantasy and use them as you see fit, yet keep in mind that dwarves don’t love the animals either, so a grunt every now and then at your pony might be just the trick. When I RP, I’m anything but gentle with my steeds. Calling them “beasts” and loathing the very thought of having to ride them.
- Homesteads: Dwarves live in their Halls underground, no news there. Yet Turbine offers us the deluxe choice of living in the Shire, or even in an Elven neighborhood. The choice is yours off course, but if you want to RP that your house is amongst elves, you might want to come up with a good reason for it (as I’m having a hard time thinking of one). The Shire might not be that difficult as dwarves traded with Hobbits and lived amongst them at times. A dwarf-trader wouldn’t have had many issues explaining he lived amongst Hobbits.
- Outfits: Turbine gives us loads of dwarven-style outfits, try them out, play with them a bit, and try to find a dwarven-style outfit that is just you. Though I don’t mind personally if folks dress around in elven-armour, it’s kind of a hard thing to sell in RP.
- Language: Khuzdul is the language of the dwarves, a secret language even. Meaning, you really shouldn’t be talking khuzdul to anyone who isn’t a dwarf (with the exception of some place names). Yes, Tolkien wrote extremely little Khuzdul (compared to Elvish), so if you want to go all out and RP in khuzdul with other dwarves (which is a challenge, I’ll grant you) you might want to have a look the following articles. Shameless plug I know… ah well, sue me 😉
- Spend some time on the character creation screen. Think long and hard about your character. It will be worth it in the long run.
- Practice makes perfect: By far the most important tip I can give anyone. Seek out some fun RP-events on your server (Laurelin and Landroval have loads) and try out your character. It’s like making pies, you might have a burned crust at first, but eventually you’ll get it right… oh wait, that’s a Hobbit saying.
And don’t forget to have fun RP-ing 🙂
Updated: 13/04/2015 – pictures re-added