Monday, 17 August 2015

The day I gave in and created a Beorning

At first I wasn't all that enthusiastic about the Beorning, the newest class and race added to Lord of the Rings Online. You see, I thought that there was no such thing as a Beorning in Tolkien's work; I only knew the Beorning from the character Beorn in The Hobbit.

In The Hobbit, Gandalf describes Beorn as follows:
"He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin: sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard. (...) Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of."

"At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own. He lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly as marvellous as himself. They work for him and talk to him. He does not eat them; neither does he hunt or eat wild animals. He keeps hives and hives of great fierce bees, and lives most on cream and honey. As a bear he ranges far and wide. I once saw him sitting all alone on the top of the Carrock at night watching the moon sinking towards the Misty Mountains, and I heard him growl in the tongue of bears: 'The day will come when they will perish and I shall go back!' That is why I believe he once came from the mountains himself."

J.R.R. Tolkien in Queer Lodgings, The Hobbit (p.110-111)
Beorn is the only one of his kind known and even Gandalf, who has seen so many things, does not know about his heritage. It seems a little absurd to have lots of Beorning characters running around in the normal inhabited world. Luckily, it turns out it's not as immersion-breaking as I thought, as they look like normal humans (just with less well-tended hair). Since you need to have fury to change to bear-form (which drops down to zero after combat), there are no floods of bears running around in towns.

Edit: And then it turns out the Beorning are real after all! Faith Stahl told me about the following mention of them in the comments:
In "Many Meetings", Chapter 1 of Book 2 in the "Fellowship of the Ring", we read... "Frodo learned that Grimbeorn the Old, the son of Beorn, was now the lord of many sturdy men, and that to their land between the Mountains and Mirkwood neither orc nor wolf dared go. 'Indeed,' said Gloin, 'if it were not for the Beornings, the passage from Dale to Rivendell would long ago have become impossible. They are valiant men and keep open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock. But their tolls are high,' he added with a shake of his head; 'and like Beorn of old they are not over fond of dwarves."
So I guess the Beorning as a race are not as far-fetched as I thought - although it is strange they are not mentioned in Lord of the Rings Online before. I'm pretty sure there's a High Pass in the Misty Mountains, but I've never run into a Beorning there.

Also, Beornings get cool tattoos! So when I logged in and found I had miraculously gained two character slots (I'm still not sure where they came from), I finally gave in and created a Beorning, Ravarun.

Starter story

Grimbeorn's valley, the Beorning starting area, is absolutely gorgeous! It is in my opinion the best looking starter area, to such an extent that I almost didn't want to finish the story, just so I could stay for a bit longer. I can't imagine anything coming closer to my dream house.

It's clear that the developers read The Hobbit intensively. A lot of details of the book are found in the starter world, for instance the abundance of wild flowers, the thorny hedge surrounding the house (see the picture above) and the Carrock afar.

I enjoyed the starter story, although I wouldn't have minded it being a bit longer. Spoiler: you live in this valley with your Beorning family, isolated from the rest of the world. Radagast visits to warn for dark forces emerging. The secluded valley will no longer be safe. 

The dialogue of your character with your sister and brother was cute and funny. The only downside of the story was that you get sent out to warn Aragorn of the danger. This seems a bit far-fetched. Why a Beorning of all possible people? Beornings don't want to be among people. Then again, having this race in the game is illogical within the context of the game in the first place, so I guess this was as good of a way as any to introduce players to the multiplayer world. /spoiler

I would have loved for Grimbeorn's valley to be larger and getting to spend more time there. After wandering around in a place so good-looking, getting ported to Archet was kinda bummer.


Since I was prepared for the fact that the bear form animations are the same as those of bear NPCs and thus very plain, I was surprised to find out that they did at least work a bit on the characters themselves - for as far the old engine allowed, that is. I could be mistaken, but it looks as if my Beorning has just a bit more detail in her face, although the character selection screen has about the same amount of options compared to other classes and races. My Beorning's bear-form looks slightly different from the usual bear NPCs as well. I discovered that your bear's fur colour is the same as your character's hair colour, and that you keep your face paint in bear form. You can see Ravarun's green stripes around her right eye, if you look at the picture above carefully. Pretty cool, if you ask me. The nose of the bear-form looks a bit weird, though: it reminds me of a pig's nose.


Playing a recently-ish developed class turned out to have its advantages. The starter gear of new characters in Lord of the Rings Online simply looks atrocious... but not for the Beorning! Throughout the game (and in my opinion especially after the Mirkwood-era) the quality of outfit design has significantly improved and Beornings get rewarded with armour especially designed for them. And thus my character got to wear LOTRO's first skirt (and man, does it look good!) and a circlet when running through Archet. I don't even want to think about how hard I had to grind festival tokens on lore-master Ravanel (my first character) to get a circlet - those were very rare back in the day - she certainly didn't get it at level 1!

Some things, however, never change...

To compensate for all that good-looking fashion, I also got a newly-designed hat in the category "as ugly as only LOTRO can make them". The game is infamous for its ugly hats by now. I'm suspecting the developers of supplying us with new ones just to keep the tradition going.

I'm looking forward to what other Beorning-specific armour they have designed. If they keep it up, there might be some gems out there for fashionistas.


  1. Those screenshots are gorgeous. I keep meaning to reinstall LotRO and that starting area looks like a good enough reason to get on and do it.

    1. Lotro on its own is a good enough reason :)

    2. It never ceases to amaze me how good LOTRO looks, especially for an MMO of its age. I'm glad you liked the screenshots.

      I must warn you that the starting area is *very* short. I guess it's technically more of a starter instance; after completing the introductory story you get sent off to Archet. I was excited to discover there's a "Return to Grimbeorn's Lodge" racial trait skill, though. I just need 1000 more spiders to get it (or something, I don't exactly remember what it was that I need to exterminate).

  2. Excellent! Beorning's are a fresh addition in my opinion with its new outfits and character looks, and it's somewhat positive for the game overall. Agreed that the starter area was gorgeous and I wished they had expanded it a little more. Would have loved to explore to Carrock and the surrounding landscape as a starter area, compared to having to go through Archet. Oh and those 2 bonus character slots are a gift from Turbine for all those on closing servers. They awarded the two slots a week or so back. Looking forward to hearing your Beorning thoughts in the future. Enjoy!

    1. Oh! That's kinda cool. Now I just feel a little stupid for buying an extra character slot for the second guardian I leveled up (the old one was stuck at level 25, but I felt bad when considering to delete her). I'll probably never use the last slot because I already have all classes.

      Thanks for dropping by and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed my Beorning ramblings!

  3. I can see your reservations about the Beorning. Like you, I hate when the lore/story of a good book get bent when adapted for a game or a movie. Although I always got the impression Turbine was much more careful about that and tried to be very respectful to what Tolkien created. Specially when they tried to add something new. I guess this is no exception. :)

    As for the last part of their tutorial story, I guess that was just their way of making the player visit someone from the books and tie it with the story in those.

    Also, I'd contest Everquest 2 has worse outfits than Lord of the Rings Online! Or at least it had for a good while. I'd provide some screenshots for evidence but I am actually scared to look for them (well, actually I am feeling lazy to look for it now. >_>)

    1. Haha, I'd totally be up for a mirror piece with, say, the worst 5 outfits in each game respectively at some point! And then compare them. ^^

      I would have to login to LOTRO and collect some ugly-looking SoA armour, though - I've taken great care to eradicate them over the course of the years I've been playing!

    2. I'd love to see that! :p

      Although I actually agree that I believe LOTRO has the worst hats. I mean, in most MMOs, I turn off the hats because I don't like them, but in LOTRO, there are two or three models in total that I like. That's... definitely not a lot at all. ;)

    3. I was going to accept it... but then I couldn't find the initial screenshots in the site I thought I saw them and I also can't remember which particular expansion they came from!

      Google wasn't of much help either. So I will just concede defeat on this one.

      Everquest 2 doesn't have that many different models either... And it isn't just limited to hats but pretty much every piece of outfit. If I understand it correctly, it is due to a terrible mistake they did in the beginning where each race had their own skeleton. So at release they had 15 races (excluding the frogloks which had to be unlocked through a questline in the beginning) and 24 classes. So for every piece of armor they had to make it work it with 15 different races. And they added more races and a couple classes over the years...

      Although I did hear they found a better solution to cut on the required time to make new gear. It still a lot of work to make one new piece of equipment though. And the game doesn't have any way to dye equipment which is another limitation of their engine!

    4. I'm so disappointed now, I was really looking forward to awful fashion - I don't know why, I guess I'm a bit of a disaster tourist! ;)

      So they deleted the old gear over time then? No way of getting it back now? That's actually a rare thing, most games keep their old stuff (even if only because they are too lazy to remove it). Having to design different clothing for all 15 races each time does sound like a lot of work. But to have such a limited selection... way to scare of fashionistas! Then again, with the graphics back in the day I imagine it not being as bigof a deal as it is now.

    5. Me too! I was looking forward to do a mirror piece with you even if it was about terrible fashion.

      No, they didn't delete the old gear. That would be too much work to replace. What they did was come up with a method that is slightly easier to make *new* gear. But apparently not easy enough for us to get enough variety. Most of the stuff in Everquest 2 are retextures or color swaps of existing gear. And yes, I think back in the old days (I haven't been there since the start, I got in a few expansions later) it probably looked cutting-edge.

      And that is pretty much the reason I still find it fascinating that LotRO has blogs dedicated purely for fashion. And the hats. That LotRO has hats still amazes me. Granted, EQ2 has some hats too but not all that much variety about it.

    6. Hey, nothing wrong with terrible fashion! If you think of another topic that would work for you in the future, you can always e-mail me. Would be fun. :)

  4. We got the two extra slots to help when we transfer servers, in case we didn't have enough available ones on the server we wanted to move to,

    1. Oh, so that was the reasoning behind that. I doubt if 2 are sufficient for altoholics with lots of characters divided across multiple servers, but it was a nice gesture.

  5. Gotta love transmedia capitalism. You know what - I'd much rather play as a bear than as a man who can turn into a bear. Since we're bending the lore, how about an ursine host at the Morannon and Aragorn crying, "Bare your claws and bear up your hearts, for the Enemy bears down upon us..."

    cough. Yeah. And I don't think low-level gear on LoTRO looks THAT bad, really - one has only to browse any LoTRO cosmetic blog to see just how well they can be used in outfits. I've put together a few in my time, and the "lol u need better cosmetic" remarks never failed to amuse me. Too many associate good outfitting with kingly Elvish armor pieces and WoW-sized pauldrons.

  6. Um...nice blog post but the Beornings are a legitimate race in Tolkien lore. I, at first, thought you made a mistake in the first paragraph but after reading through the post and comments, I can see it is not.

    The Beornings are a term for the son of Beorn. Presumably, he had them with a settler on the edge of the Misty Mountains after he began opening his home to them in the end of the Hobbit.

    I recall two official mentions of the Beornings in Tolkien's work but there are probably more. The first mention comes from the dwarf Gloin, the second from his son Gimli.

    In "Many Meetings", Chapter 1 of Book 2 in the "Fellowship of the Ring", we read... "Frodo learned that Grimbeorn the Old, the son of Beorn, was now the lord of many sturdy men, and that to their land between the Mountains and Mirkwood neither orc nor wolf dared go. 'Indeed,' said Gloin, 'if it were not for the Beornings, the passage from Dale to Rivendell would long ago have become impossible. They are valiant men and keep open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock. But their tolls are high,' he added with a shake of his head; 'and like Beorn of old they are not over fond of dwarves."

    The second mention that I spoke of comes in "Farewell to Lorien" which is in Chapter 8 of Book 2 of the "Fellowship of the Ring". Here we find Gimli son of Gloin following his father's footsteps. "Indeed it is,' said Gimli. 'Why, it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of."

    Thus, the Beornings are mentioned as a race in Tolkien lore. Obviously, there are differences from book to game but this truth still remains.

    I am not a gamer but I am a Tolkien reader and I thought that it might be good to bring up this flaw in your research.

    1. Thanks for pointing out those sections to me, that's interesting to read. I've updated the post accordingly. I do wonder if those "sturdy men" are direct descendants of Beorn and/or Grimbeorn, or if they are normal men following them. Everyone seems to assume the first, but it seems to be kept a bit vague if you read it to the letter.

      Anyway, I'm happy there turned out to be more to the Beorning than I knew. I'm enjoying playing mine.


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