Friday, 1 July 2016

The walk to Minas Tirith. A curious meeting with role-players

I was speed levelling my hunter, Ravereth. Not something I normally do, but I had promised to bring a level 65 to a nostalgia raid and I didn't have one. Now there was just one week left and still over ten levels to go. The epic quest urged me to talk to Elrond, but I had never been to Rivendell and couldn't take a swift horse there. The captain in Rivendell that I found with the /who command didn't respond to my polite request to summon me. Relunctantly I ported to Ost Guruth and mounted my own horse to make the trip manually. This would take much of my precious time.

It wasn't long before I passed a company of four players walking the road eastward. I blinked. They weren't running (the default movement for moving in MMOs), but actually walking. In other words, they were consciously moving about as slowly as possible, on a road with nothing to see. Curiosity got the better of me.

Ravereth: "Hail, travellers. Where goes the road?"

Hobbit 1: "We're walking to Minas Tirith."

Ravereth: "To Minas Tirith?! That road is long and perilous. Even I haven't travelled that far. I advice you to buy a horse, if you have the coin. I would share mine, but it couldn't bear all of you."

Hobbit 2 (squeeling): "We've been walking all day. I haven't had second breakfast yet."

Dorf (grumbling): "Damn hobbits. Always thinking with their stomach."

You trade [Superior Spiced Apple Pie] to Hobbit 1.
You trade [Superior Spiced Apple Pie] to Hobbit 2.

Trade accepted.

The hobbits are silent for a bit, occupied with their pies. Hobbit 2 looks more cheerful already. The man of the company doesn't seem interested in pleasantries (or pies) and walks ahead.

Hobbit 1, who seems to be the leader of the lot: "You can come with us, if you want. But no horses. We travel by foot." 

I sigh internally. Over my dead body, I think. I estimate it will take several analogue days staring at the screen to walk all the way to Minas Tirith.

Makeshift map of the in-game road to Minas Tirith

Fun fact: using the data of this cool site that tries to stimulate people to walk through Tolkien, I would estimate the length of the road from the Lonelands to Minas Tirith to be about (198.5 (half the distance from Bag's End to Rivendell) + 693 + 535 =) 1,426.5 miles or 2296 km. With an average of 20 km per day, that would be 115 days of walking! Luckily for the company of four that I met, the in-game distances are considerably smaller. They do have to take a detour through Moria, though.

Ravereth: "Thank you for the invitation, but I carry an urgent message to Lord Elrond."

The hobbits stare at me indifferently. The name of the important Half-elf doesn't appear to ring any bells.

Ravereth: "Alright then. I will travel with you to the Last Bridge, but then I must really be on my way."

I get invited to their fellowship and so we walk the dust of the Lonelands. The presence of an agile Elf seems to have an inspiring effect on the others and they step up their pace. This invokes cheers from my company. 

As we near the Last Bridge, excitement gets a hold of the hobbits.

"Time to jump down from the bridge. It's tradition!" Hobbit 1 shouts.

Ravereth: "Whoa, be careful! You might break a leg!"

But it is no use. The travellers jump up and down in anticipation and encourage each other to take the jump. When I say my farewell and mount my steed, they're still absorbed by it and don't notice me riding off. As I continue my road through the Trollshaws I smile and ponder on space and time and how players experience it differently.


  1. I do love when moments such as this happen; it makes one really quite appreciate the lengths people go to to feel immersed.

    It's a good thing they didn't have a Ring of Power on them if they were sticking entirely to the roads - bridge-jumping notwithstanding - but I'm sure they could handle perils in their aloof ways. :p

    1. Running into these role-players cheered me up, as well (especially since the mindset of doing everything as fast as possible to maximize leveling speed goes against my nature).

      Although they indeed didn't have a Ring of Power on them (as far as I am aware!), I do wonder what became of them. I don't recall their exact character levels, but I remember being relieved that one of the hobbits could just about eat my pie, which has a level requirement of 30. The aggro range of mobs for under-level characters is absolutely *huge* in LOTRO: I remember mobs running towards an under-level friend from over 40m to one-shot her on another occasion. Even though we tried to clear the areas to keep her safe, she died several times.

      Minas Tirith is a level 100 area and the fields surrounding it have mounted enemies that run after you for almost forever. I doubt the low level characters would ever be able to reach it without a ton of rezzes. IIRC you even get dread when entering high level areas as a low level character, reducing your visuals and amount of health, as if things aren't bad enough.

  2. When I played LotRO the first time there always seemed to be people walking. It was on an RP server though. I quite often walk in most MMOs. We used to do it in EQ fairly often and I like to do it now and again for a (literal)change of pace.

    One of the best walks I've ever done, though, was in World vs World. We were in a very difficult match where we had been outnumbered and routed repeatedly. Our commander had the entire zerg walk from one Keep to another in line abreast as a show of defiance. The effect on our enemies was startling. They didn't know what to make of it at all.

    Walking in a world where everyone runs does have power.

    1. I played on a non-RP server for 8 years; I never saw a lot of walking. That server got closed last year and I moved to an RP server (Laurelin). Not so much because I roleplay myself, but because the smaller scale lore-friendly atmosphere attracted me (the other available option was a massive server where the more vocal part of my old server moved to). Ever since, I've been enjoying the occasional RPers I've come across: I think it's cute (not in a demeaning way, sorry hardcore RPers) and it greatly adds to the immersive atmosphere of the game.

      Communicating through movement is one of the most basic forms of communication and I think it's cool it has found its way into MMOs! Perhaps open world PvP areas are especially prone to it because members of different factions have no other way of communication. I've seen examples of it like yours in LOTRO, where creeps and freeps stood in a line during cease fire, or when I was watching two friends duel at 3am and a warg quietly went sitting next to me to watch together.

  3. That site that stimulates people to walk through Lord of the Rings is pretty awesome! Thanks for sharing it!

    Also, that is some pretty hardcore roleplaying. Back when I did roleplaying in Everquest 2 there were a few occasions where I did try to walk instead of running. But the walking there is so dang slow that I think even a sludge would move faster. It would drive me mad very fast when I tried it.

    1. A closer look at that website shows that they moved on to other forms of nerdy popular culture as well, so I should change that in the blog post, but I agree that's it's a cool approach.

      And yes, walking is super slow in LOTRO, too! If you want you can check this video out and tell me how it compares to Everquest:

      I still may have to walk to Minas Tirith myself at some point, though. There's a session play quest that sends you off there from the Shire as a helpless chicken and rewards with the title Lord/Lady of the Wings. I've done all the previous chicken quests, so I kind of feel I need to do this one, too, now they've added it (Minas Tirith was added reasonably recently to the game)...

    2. Hmm, that video should show up in the comments. Looks like some external Javascript stuff is broken again. Sorry for this, will have to look into this at some point.

    3. Looking at the video LOTRO walk does seem to be faster than EQ2. It could be just my impression though. Or my memory being terrible as always. Either way, walking is not something I'd do lightly in EQ2!

      Oh, I heard about that chicken thing in LOTRO! It sounds funny, if challenging, to do. Alas, I never hanged in LOTRO long enough to actually try it.

    4. It's definitely challenging and hilarious at times (especially the one you need to take through the Ettenmoors, the open world PvP map where orc, warg, spider players etc can one-shot you with any skill and get rewarded for it), but it also gets a bit tedious after a while. Of course every time when you let down your guard and continue to run on autopilot, some mob aggros on you and you're KFC (which means you can start over from the start again!). -_-

  4. I wish them luck on their journeys.

    And I hope that they've got a level boost hidden away.

    1. I hope that, as well! Although I kind of doubt it, as the Gift of the Valar is really quite expensive!


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