Just when I was ready to abandon all hope of ever laying my eyes upon the beta of Mists of Pandaria (as I couldn’t afford the year-long pass when it was offered to us), Raptr gave away beta keys a few days ago! Imagine my excitement when I realized that I not only qualified for a key according to their setup, but I was able to actually snatch one up almost immediately after it was offered and get into the awesomeness that was the beta. It felt like it took forever to download, but soon, I was there!

Clearly, the thing that was the most important to me was checking out the Pandaren starting zone, so it made sense for me to start there first. After waffling over class choices for several hours, I chose to create a little pandaren priest. Shadow priests are my thing, after all, and with Adaret’s story officially at a close, I’ve been giving some serious thought towards race-changing her into something else. Why not a pandaren? However, I had to make sure I liked them. They were cute and their women were appropriately curvy (which I did like), but could I stand to play one for an extended length of time? I figured this would be a very good test of that.

There were a few things I noticed immediately once my beta!priest was rolled and I was peering around at everything and everyone. First off, everyone and their mother, it seemed, was determined to play a pandaren monk (not that I blame them, as both will be new for all come MoP release day), and I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place as a little pandaren priest with her tiny little staff and adorable Chinese-inspired robes. Secondly, the zone itself is incredibly detailed and gorgeous, as are the models. At one point, I paused so I could zoom in on my panda’s face, and I could clearly see the detail they put into the fur. It looks gorgeous.

The adorable little pandaren priest I wound up rolling my first day in the beta. Lookit that cute little face!

Of course, as we all know, all pandaren begin life factionless. You get the option to join the Alliance or the Horde around level 12. However, before you can join your faction of choice, you must train! Your first ten or so levels are spent improving your skills and doing various important tasks around your home before you learn that things are not all happy and wonderful on the back of the giant turtle that you and the rest of the pandaren live on. Once you get to this point, the events that unfold afterwards shape the choices you make to select your faction. No spoilers, for those who are avoiding them, but let’s just say bits of the plot made me sad.

What I can tell you, however, is this: the entire leveling process, at least where you begin as a pandaren, is pretty streamlined. Strangely, however, there was a complete lack of class trainers. I discovered that as I leveled, new abilities appeared on my actionbars, completely eliminating the need to stop whatever I was doing to run back to town to try to find a trainer. I’ll be honest; I found that kind of nice.

The abilities I had to start off with up until level 10, were Shadow Word: Pain, Smite, Power Word: Shield, and Flash Heal. Upon hitting level ten and choosing the Shadow specialization, Smite immediately transformed into Mind Flay. Smite was locked to me from that point on. There are some abilities you get no matter what your specialization is, though. For example, I could still heal myself decently as Flash Heal didn’t go away. However, I don’t think I could manage to heal an entire group that way.

Being the shadow priest lover that I am, there was still more left to do once I was done with the pandaren starting zone. I had to see how things were at the former level cap of 85! Fortunately, beta lets you play with an 85 template, and I created a new pandaren shadow priest that way and was promptly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in the middle of Orgrimmar. (I come from a tiny server; I’m not used to seeing that many people.) The beta wound up giving you a lot of THINGS when you logged in, namely gems, enchanting materials, and even gear. I had two sets of gear on me, one with spirit and one without. I promptly switched to the set without the spirit as we no longer had anything that converted spirit to hit, rendering spirit pretty much useless for a shadow priest. Also, 5000 gold were waiting for me in my bags. Not a bad place to start off!

I didn’t get very far, as it took me a bit to get used to how certain abilities were triggered and what they did now, but even the short amount of time I spent as an 85 in the beta was some of the most fun I’ve had as a shadow priest in a long time. It was fun trying to figure out how things worked again. I’m still not sure which of the redesigned talents are the most beneficial to me, but, for now, it’s still a ridiculous amount of fun and I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to the release of Mists of Pandaria now. I want to be a bouncy panda priest.

A Major Milestone

I’ve mentioned in the past just how much I love Middle-Earth. When I created my hobbit minstrel, Anthyllis, I used it as an opportunity to take everything I loved about the world and put it into a character. I decided that, as a hobbit, she had grown up listening to Bilbo’s stories and ventured out into the world to see some of the things he had seen and to possibly happen upon some interesting adventures of her own. After finally hitting level 42 a few weeks back, Anthyllis is now officially my highest level character in LotRO. Being at this level, however, it meant that she got to venture into the Trollshaws, go to Rivendell, and even meet Elrond!

And this isn’t even all of Rivendell. It’s gorgeous, though, isn’t it?

One of the things I personally love about LotRO is the fact that the major lore characters are right there. You can talk to them, you can quest for them, and, sometimes, you can even adventure with them. At the current point Anthyllis is at in the epic quest chain, the Fellowship has yet to leave Imladris, so the entire Fellowship is still right there in the city, and, yes, she’s happily visited them all. She even got to run around a bit with Gimli last night when they ventured out to destroy an evil dwarf.

However, despite this, it wasn’t quite enough, and I found myself incapable of describing why that was. The entire time, I couldn’t help but feel like something major was missing. I had gotten to see quite a few major landmarks so far. I got to see Weathertop earlier, and the Ford of Bruinen where the Ringwraiths were swept away by the river in the Fellowship of the Ring. I had gotten to meet the Fellowship. I had even met Bilbo! So why didn’t it feel like enough? Something was missing, I just wasn’t sure what.

As Anthyllis continued to roam through the Trollshaws, however, she happened upon a man further down the Bruinen river, who informed her that his grandparents lived in a village that had been raided by trolls, and he, for reason, wanted to find out what had become of them all these years later. It turned out their names were Bert, Tom, and Bill. It took me a minute or two before I remembered The Hobbit and why those names were so significant.

The quest-giver was talking about Bilbo’s trolls.

Once I came to this realization, I had Anthyllis mount up and ride for Rivendell, almost frantically trying to remember where Bilbo was in the Last Homely House. If anybody knew where they would be, he would. Fortunately, it didn’t take me very long to do. He quite happily regaled Anthyllis with the tale of the trolls (apparently, it’s her favorite) and even told her where they were. So, enthused, she set out immediately for the clearing where the three trolls were still frozen in stone, and I as the player, couldn’t stop squeeing for at least ten minutes while I took all the pictures ever.

Anthyllis, however, was finally able to see something she had actually grown up hearing about, and could not have been happier. What could possibly top seeing Mister Bilbo’s trolls?

Anthyllis is so excited to finally see something amazing from Bilbo’s stories

The Great Server Transfer

As we all know, Bioware has been making some interesting changes lately to SWTOR. One of these seems to be making mega-servers, and, to accomplish this, they have been offering us free server transfers to certain destination servers of their choice. Honestly, I didn’t think that Lord Adraas, the server I’ve had since launch in December, would ever be touched. I had been under the impression it was one of the larger RP servers, and, if anything, would have been a destination server.

Turns out I was wrong somewhere, as, last week, free transfers opened up from Lord Adraas to The Ebon Hawk.

Up until my guildies mentioned something to me over Twitter, I honestly had no idea this was something that was open to us. Because I had these strange beliefs about our home server, I didn’t even think it was a possibility. However, we collectively decided to make the leap and move over. To my surprise, the server transfers went through very quickly, despite the quoted time for each transfer being about an hour. In about ten or fifteen minutes, I had all of my girls moved over and everything was just as I had left it. Bioware, if you ever happen to stumble upon this and read this post, thank you again for the speed in which all the transfers happened. I loved that I was able to be online and playing again in a matter of minutes as opposed to a few hours.

There were a few renames I had to do, of course, but that was to be expected. I was saddened that I lost both the unique names I had associated with one of mine, but I was able to claim her surname as her Legacy name on the new server, so I was still able to keep a piece of her (thankfully; she wouldn’t have been the same, otherwise). However, my guild was also faced with the unexpected dilemma of choosing a new guild name. To be honest, though, I like our new name better than our old one. >> Hail to JOUST Squadron!

As of today, new servers are open for transfer, so check the list to see if your server is on there. Yours might become a destination server, so if that’s the case, see who might be coming to join you. If you’ve made the decision about server transferring and are faced with similar problems like my guild and I were, Anexxia of Inquisitor’s Roadhouse has some wonderful tips regarding choosing new names for yourself and your Legacy and some fun ideas for new guild names, so be sure to check those out.

I will say, though, that it’s nice seeing a ridiculous number of people on the Republic fleet. I’m so used to there being only a handful of us there. :( It was kind of lonely.

Spring Has Sprung

Spring is in the air at long last in Middle-earth, for the Spring Festival has begun! A celebration of all things bright, flowering, and green! (And also a celebration where you get to stomp upon some shrews, apparently.) Whether you choose to gather beautiful flowers during the entire event, run around (and get lost) in the hedge maze in Bree-land, or just choose to run about and do quests to increase your reputation with the Ale Association or the Inn League, there’s something for everyone!

Of course, we have our lovely festival-themed ponies, which, surprising no one, were the very things I first ran out to check. Unfortunately, ponies from previous years are locked away in the stables still, but Turbine gave us some pretty ones for this year! We can obtain the Springtime Steed (from last year, I believe) and the Simbelmynë Steed, though the latter requires more race tokens and leaves than the former if you’d like to add them both to your stable. The latter horse also takes it’s name from Rohan, which is fitting as we’re entering Rohan with the new expansion content. Simbelmynë (or evermind) is the name of the white flower that grows on the tombs of kings there, and it’s nice to see the white flowers on the horse’s tack in reference to this.

The newest addition to the LotRO stables, the Simbelmynë Steed! (Isn't it pretty?)

To get these lovely mounts, however, you need to get leaves to trade! You can gather leaves through a variety of quests, and several of these quests lead you into the hedge maze out in Bree-land around Bree’s festival grounds. Unfortunately for me, I swiftly discovered that the hedge maze and I do not mix. Although the hedge maze is very pretty, I soon discovered that I felt ridiculously claustrophobic in there, and this is coming from someone who has no prior issues with claustrophobia. I basically had to flee the maze as fast as I realistically could, leaving a deed or two unfinished as a result. So, claustrophobia sufferers, beware. This may happen to you.

How do I get out of here again?

Sweet relief came in the form of a quest called A Fistful of Flowers, in which you basically get to run around the Shire, Ered Luin, and Bree-land, and all you have to do is pick flowers for an hour. It’s quite possibly one of the most relaxing quests I’ve ever done in any MMO. If you’re after one specific flower type, pay attention to where the quest giver tells you the flowers grow. You can pick up any of the three flower types from any flower bed, but I wound up picking a lot more marigolds out in the Shire, for example, where they are many and abundant. Once your hour for the day is up, you can spend some Turbine points to pick up another ticket in the store to grant you another hour of flower picking time, but it isn’t worth it, really. You can gather a ridiculous amount of flowers in one hour, let me tell you. I ended my flower picking a little on the early side, as I didn’t know what happened when time ran out (spoiler: nothing happens; you just complete the quest). However, in about 45 minutes, I wound up with 83 primroses, 56 marigolds, and 41 violets, to give you an idea.

I wasn’t sure what these flowers were for, as I’ve never participated in the Spring Festival before, but I soon found out. Apparently, these flowers are barter items that you can exchange for gift boxes! You can get a variety of different things out of them, but the one thing I was certainly not expecting was the one thing I was the most pleased to get. Apparently, the RNG tables were making up for the fact that Anthyllis never saw a single mount out of the Anniversary festival, because I opened a gift box to reveal a Steed of the Jester within. Her name is Jangles and she makes jingling bell sounds when moving. It’s adorable. This particular pony comes with 250 health and 68% speed, a nice step up from the 62% you get with pretty much every other pony in the game.

Anthyllis upon her Steed of the Jester.

Unfortunately, I tend to fail a bit at guides, and there’s so much more going on for the festival that I haven’t even covered in this post. Never fear, though! A Casual Stroll to Mordor has a fantastic Spring Festival guide out as of today, detailing everything you can do during the festival, and also a nice list of some of the generic things (such as various racial dances you can earn) that occur during every major festival in the game. Do check it out, and perhaps I’ll run into you in Middle-earth!

Roleplaying Flags and How to Love Them

To a roleplayer in any MMO, many people might find the character model they’re using a bit limiting. In SWTOR, we don’t really have this problem. We have the option of giving our characters cybernetics, various skin textures, tattoos, or even certain scarring. We can even adjust the weight of the character. We have the body type option in LotRO, also the option for minimal facial customization, but if we want our characters to have anything past that, we’re out of luck. The same goes for WoW in that we only have minimal customization options for our characters.

So what if the image of the character we have in our heads doesn’t match what our characters actually look like? What are we as roleplayers supposed to do then? And, for that matter, how are we supposed to let other roleplayers know we’re roleplaying at all? For some, walking through a major city is a good enough indicator, as is talking to various NPCs. For others, however, this might not be enough. This is where flagging yourself as a roleplayer can be incredibly handy.

Turbine: Supplying Helpful Tools for the Roleplaying Community

In LotRO, this is very easy to do. By default, the names and various sundry things that display over our heads appears in yellow or greenish-yellow text. If we type /rp on into the chat panel, however, the text over our head changes to white, indicating that we’re roleplayers. You can type /rp into the chat panel to see if you’re flagged or not if you aren’t sure whether or not you’ve set it.

Engeled demonstrating how nameplates look with "/rp off" (left) and "/rp on" (right).

Turbine also decided to be wonderful and give us a biography screen. In this screen, you can show off your parentage/children (providing you’ve been adopted by another player or have adopted one, yourself), and you even have a spot to detail your character’s personal history. While many roleplayers in LotRO use it for it’s intended purpose, others still tend to take advantage of the space and write out a detailed description of their character’s physical appearance. I have yet to figure out how I want to take advantage of the space, so, for right now, it’s left blank on both of my characters.

Warcraft, Addons, and You

However, while Turbine was wonderful and built these tools directly into the game for us, Blizzard has not. If we as roleplayers in Azeroth want a similar tool, we have to utilize addons. At first, I didn’t know addons like this existed, but I downloaded one, it opened up a whole new aspect of roleplaying for me. I fell in love with them, and if you’re a roleplayer in WoW, having an addon like this is kind of a godsend, especially if you’re on a server where non-RPers coexist with the rest of the roleplaying community. If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend that you download one and play with it.

If this is your first time looking into one of these addons, I’d recommend starting off with either MyRoleplay or FlagRSP2/FlagRSP Cataclysm, if only because these tend to be the most commonly used roleplaying addons in the Warcraft community. There are other addons you could use, as well, but as I have no experience with them, I’m going to keep myself from talking about them. When it comes to choosing an addon for these purposes, however, I can’t really recommend using one over all the others out there as I’ve found that it’s really a matter of personal preference. Most of the flag generating addons are able to “talk” to each other, so you should be able to read all the flags you come across regardless of the addon you choose. Take your time, investigate the various RP addons, and choose whichever one you like the best.

After you’ve made your choice, install them as you would any other addon you use in WoW. Then, the next time you boot up the game and get ready to have fun in Azeroth, you’ll be ready to roll and you can start filling things in! However, you don’t have to fill out all those blank areas right away. Personally, I like to take some time to make sure my description for the character is solid before I fill in anything. Therefore, the first thing I tend to do is fill in the character’s surname if the character has one (or given name as the case may be) and set my flags, and I’d recommend you do this, too. After all, you can put in a description at any given time, but letting people know if you’re in character or not is one of the first steps to initiating random RP.

Your Character’s Description

So you have your options on how to input your character’s physical description. The question now is how do you go about writing it?

You could do something as basic as “what you see is what you get”, implying that your character looks exactly as s/he is on the screen or you could go wild and crazy. Some even choose to put in their character’s backstory into their description, but I’d personally caution you against doing that. After all, your character doesn’t have their history written on their clothing (or do they?). Remember that no one would know your character’s entire life story just from looking at them. However, MyRoleplay does have a “Background” field that you can choose to put your character’s history into if you were so inclined. (I never do.) You can get away with this in the space Turbine provided for us, as well, but I would not recommend doing this outside of the designated areas unless you want to have other roleplayers look at your flag with some confusion.

Personally, my character descriptions tend to be a bit on the briefer side, a paragraph or two at most, and are limited to my character’s physical description only. Think about what others would see, smell, or hear when they come upon your character. If your character is one of the Forsaken, does his/her bones creak when they walk? Perhaps the character smells of the earth or like mold or your character wears various things in their hair that clack or jingle when they move. These are the things you’d definitely want to include, as descriptions like these are used to engage another RPer in your character prior to actually initiating conversation. In real life, a person’s opinion of you is set in their minds just from that first glance, so make it count!

A look at the MyRoleplay interface (which blends nicely into WoW's existing interface) and Adaret's description.

Now, are there things to avoid? Certainly. I already suggested not putting your character’s history into their description, so I won’t touch on that again. However, there are other things. For example, you can see that Adaret’s description above has some extraneous descriptors that I could take out and lose absolutely nothing. This is a milder example of purple prose, or very extravagant and flowery writing, and isn’t exactly something a lot of people would want to try to slog through. Nor, for that matter, is thesaurus abuse. Examples of this would be writing “orbs” in place of eyes or something like “puce” in place of “green”. You don’t want to have to make someone break out a dictionary just to be able to understand what you’re trying to say. To see an example of this all put together, please take a look at this wonderful example crafted by one of my friends on Thorium Brotherhood of her character, Dariahn (please note that this is a parody and is no way reflective of Dariahn’s actual flag).

Another common thing I see people doing when it comes to their flags is saying how the other person reading your flag is supposed to feel when they look at your character. This is godmodding (which I will touch upon in another post) and is generally frowned upon. No one likes being told how their character is supposed to act or how they will react to certain things. Without going into a godmodding rant, however, I will simply leave you with this: Do not do it.

Keep in mind, however, that all of this is just a suggestion. I’m not saying that you absolutely need to have an addon to roleplay, that you have to flag yourself as a roleplayer, or that you need to write your description a certain way. However, these tools do make finding other roleplayers infinitely easier, and if you’re stuck for inspiration when it comes to writing your own description, you can hunt down other examples very easily just running around one of the major RP servers out there and seeing what other players have come up with. Ultimately, though, your character’s description is entirely up to you, so remember to have fun with it.

Shoe-Wearing Hobbits

Every so often, I like taking a look at the search terms that bring people to Pen and Shield. Most of them tend to be very logical leaps. Due to the blog title, for example, many of the lovely people using Google tend to make their way here due to searching for “pen” and “shield” and other variations thereupon. To those of you who are interested in those things, I apologize as I’m pretty sure this blog is not what you were trying to find. However, there was one quite recently that brought someone to this blog that I thought was kind of interesting. The question was as follows:

Why do LotRO hobbits have shoes?

Now, this was a question I actually asked, myself, when I first started playing my hobbit minstrel and didn’t quite understand how the cosmetic system worked. The hobbits we’re all familiar with, after all, don’t seem to wear shoes. In fact, most hobbits don’t. Tolkien himself says a hobbit’s foot possesses a tough leathery sole, thereby eliminating the need to wear shoes in their everyday lives. For that reason, the majority of the hobbits we see as NPCs in the Shire in LotRO do not wear any sort of footwear whatsoever. However, Tolkien also says that they “seldom” wear shoes, which indicates that some hobbits must wear them.

Anthyllis decides to try wearing boots for herself.

So who are these interesting hobbits? Why wear shoes?

The thing is that shoes, as in any MMO, are pieces of gear. You need that gear for the stats it will give you and you’ll be hurting yourself pretty badly if you don’t have a piece equipped. Fortunately, LotRO has provided us with a cosmetic gear system that allows players to choose what displays on their character and what doesn’t. You get all the stats from the piece, but you don’t have to look like you’re wearing it, which is absolutely wonderful. If you don’t want your hobbit to be wearing shoes all the time, all you have to do is click the appropriate button next to your shoes, and no more shoes visible for your hobbit! (Admittedly, at first, I couldn’t quite understand why this option wasn’t toggled off by default for all hobbits, but that’s neither here nor there.) Some pieces of cosmetic gear (many of the dresses, for example) can be equipped cosmetically and already have the shoes automatically toggled off for your hobbits, so if your hobbit will be wandering about in some sort of finery, you might not have to do any work at all!

Perhaps your character’s nationality might have something to do with whether or not they wear shoes. After all, at character creation, you’re faced with three hobbit nationalities: the Fallowhides, the Stoors, and the Harfoots (Harfeet?). Out of these three nationalities, only one has been known to wear any sort of footwear. Historically, the Stoors wore boots, but they only wore them when the environment called for it. So, if you wanted your hobbit to be a boot-wearing hobbit, a Stoor might be the way to go.

There are, of course, some occasions where shoes might be considered appropriate. If you’re a heavily armored hobbit, maybe you want to make sure everything’s protected, including your wonderful feet. The best solution then would clearly be appropriately matching footwear. If you’re wandering about in the cold, perhaps up in the Misty Mountains, and you don’t want your toes to freeze off, shoes are wonderful things to invest in. Anthyllis’ cold weather “armor” set sports a pair, and she doesn’t particularly care who criticizes her for it.

Writing all this, however, has made me curious. I’m sure I have some people who read this blog who play hobbits in LotRO. Even if you don’t, I’m curious anyway. Is your hobbit a shoe-wearing hobbit? If you don’t play, would your hobbit wear shoes or go without? What might prompt them to wear shoes at all?

The Melee Experiment

This year is the fifth anniversary of Lord of the Rings Online! Hooray! Admittedly, I’ve only been playing for a year, but it’s still exciting! None of my other MMOs celebrate their birthdays quite like LotRO does, complete with beer battles, fireworks at night (with a show you can actually participate in), shiny new cosmetic gear that you may or may not be interested in, and several other surprises you might not expect. (For example, the other night, I discovered a horse in an envelope while gathering lost festival invitations around Bree.) And, while I don’t know if this is common during the anniversary festivals or not since this is still my first year playing, Turbine has even offered us double the experience points beginning on April 24th and going into the 30th, although I’m unsure if it extends until the new end of the festival (May 9th) as the festivities have been extended. Regardless, this makes it perfect if you have a character that’s been a bit more difficult to level than others. You can level up, go on all the festival quests, and even earn some tokens as you do which you can exchange for gift boxes and even marks which you can put towards pretty much anything.

This being me, however, I was ignoring the marks and the gift boxes and all the other fun things. I instead looked at the double experience bonus and saw it as an opportunity to create a new alt and to see how far I could take her while the bonus was in place. With this in mind, I decided to revisit my original LotRO character (who has gone under multiple class changes while I attempted to figure out who she was): Engeled of Rohan. After looking over every single class that Men could be, I eventually decided I wanted to try something she could be that no other race could. I decided she would be a captain.

I did waffle over the choice quite a bit, though, since, as I’ve stated before, I have issues with melee combat. To me, it isn’t all that fun. However, I was in love with the look of the Captain class. If you were to spend enough time in Bree, you see a handful of them running around at any given time, and all the ones I’ve seen have looked absolutely amazing. Sometimes certain things just look so amazing that you kind of want to have one, regardless of how you feel about the type of class in general. Then again, maybe that’s just me. In any case, I realized this would make an interesting experiment. Was I still completely out of love with melee or could I put that aside for a class I loved? (Well, providing I fell in love with the class at all.)

Engeled pondering her next move.

Once I settled on a design I liked (close enough to her original design where I would feel comfortable), I dove in, and it wasn’t until I was running around Archet after it’s destruction, happily slaughtering a giant spider that a NPC had asked me to kill around level 9 or so at the time that I realized something.

I was still having fun.

In a moment where Engeled was about to die, I quickly switched targets to kill something else just to trigger a defeat response so I could heal her just a bit and land the last few blows on the signature-portrait spider, I realized it was just as challenging as ranged DPS was to me. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t like the fact that things could wail on me the second I started wailing on it, but somehow, none of that mattered. Besides which, Engeled could heal! If she lasted long enough and I was brave enough to venture into dungeons, I could heal them! (Paladin healing is still very much a love of mine and I’m always eager to see if I can find something else close to it.)

So far, Engeled has reached Level 16 and has only just gotten through the prologue of the epic storyline. And I’m still having fun. I hear that captains really start getting amazing around level 30 or so, and, as of right now, I’m planning on sticking it out until then, at least. I really haven’t had this much fun with a class in a long time.

Leveling and Legacies

I used to think that the only people who powered through content in MMOs were the truly obsessed, the addicted, or only existed on sitcoms where geek culture takes some sort of prominence. I’m definitely not one of those people. I am, however, the kind of person who typically likes to savor their content. I’d rather take my time and see what there is to see. As a roleplayer who doesn’t normally raid, there really isn’t much for me to do in terms of “endgame content”, anyhow. What’s the point in rushing, anyway? The majority of the people who do rush to level cap often tend to sit in general chat wherever they are and complain about the lack of endgame content. I certainly never wanted to be one of those people, and I was perfectly happy taking my time killing things and slowly progressing through the content.

Then Bioware had to go and screw all that up by unleashing patch 1.2 in Star Wars: The Old Republic last Thursday.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the patch. I was. What was there to hate about racial unlocks, family trees, and a whole slew of other new things that came along with it? (Not to mention the stealth inclusion of the rakghoul plague spreading to Tatooine, but I digress.) The new patch meant that something I’ve wanted since the game began was almost within my reach: a twi’lek bounty hunter. I really don’t know what it is about the race that I love, but I love everything about them, and when the game had first begun and we had limited information as to what twi’leks could be, I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t be bounty hunters. This disappointment grew exponentially upon game launch when it turned out there were twi’lek bounty hunter trainers. I was very sad. With the new patch, however, as soon as I got a twi’lek to level 50, I could finally have my wish. It really didn’t take long for this to set in for me.

Out of the two twi’lek characters I had, the closest to level cap by the time the patch rolled around was Bel’neven, my Sith Sorcerer, who was level 40 at the time. Keeping this in mind, there was really only one thing to do: go on a leveling binge. I had the day off, after all! So, after going out to stock up a bit on necessary supplies, I went a little crazy. That first day, I was fortunate enough to get Bel’neven to level 45 and get her off of Belsavis. I’ve been working on her ever since, and then, late last night, I finally achieved the dream:

After a brief conversation with Khem Val, Bel'neven finally hits level 50.

Needless to say, I was excited and had to flail about it over twitter. (I even got an early congratulations from the official SWTOR twitter account! I’m still floored about that.) Was it worth it? I can honestly say that, yes, I feel like it was. By the time I hit Corellia, the Sith Inquisitor storyline was really picking up, and I was excited to see where it would go. I won’t go into the specifics here, if only because that’s another post unto itself. I will say, though, that if there’s one thing Bioware really knows how to do, it’s create a good story and keep you invested in it. You may switch to other alts, but you still remember most of what’s going on. You’re still invested in the arc, your character, and your character’s companions. So, yeah, definitely worth it. Now I can finally explore the bits of the galaxy that were previously unknown to me, and PvP my little heart out with other people at my level.

Plus, you know, there’s that wonderful added bonus of finally being able to start my twi’lek alt army, starting with the twi’lek bounty hunter I’ve yearned for. Be afraid, citizens of Lord Adraas. Be very afraid. ;)

Cosmetically Equipped: Concerning Hobbits

One of the things I love about Lord of the Rings Online is the cosmetic gear system. Let’s face it, guys. In any MMO, you pick up gear as you go along in the world and, unfortunately, some bits look better than others. However, it’s all the same. In the end, we’re usually stuck wearing gear that makes us look like clowns. Fortunately, LotRO gives us a way to combat the clown gear by giving us access to dyes, but then we have a new problem. Some parts of whatever we might choose to fall in love with just do not take dye, and if they do, they can sometimes look worse than before if you like using a specific dye color with your character and said dye color clashes with the bits that can’t be dyed. For these troubling moments, I am eternally grateful that we can have another set of gear overlayed on top of our questing gear while still getting the stats from it.

For the curious, yes, dear readers, you are now witnessing my secret love: cosmetic gear.  It’s no secret that I like my characters to look good. Even if I wasn’t a roleplayer, I’d still happily use a system like this. I feel like every character has an outfit for anything they do, even if it’s just hanging around with guild/kinmates. You don’t have to look like a hodgepodge of different armor styles all the time, after all. There’s a reason why addons like Outfitter, back in the earlier days of WoW, were so popular, as these allowed us to easily switch between our questing/PvP gear and that pretty dress we got during the last holiday or the matching armor set that was gathering dust in our bank. I jumped for joy when WoW came out with transmogging, but I still think it pales in comparison to LotRO’s cosmetic system.

I’m still new to the ways of cosmetic gearing, as the majority of my outfits tend to be simple things. I’m also still somewhat in the “EVERYTHING I PUT ON MUST MATCH” phase. Once I began to figure out how the cosmetic gear system worked and I had options apart from the cosmetics that came with the Rise of Isengard expansion, I realized I needed something for Anthyllis to wear when she returned to the safer areas and she wasn’t out and about questing. She needed what I decided to call a Hobbit About Town look, something she could live in. After messing around a bit, taking into account what Tolkien himself said hobbits favored for colors, and going through the mish-mash of a wardrobe that I had, I finally came up with something I loved.

Admittedly, yes, it’s a very simple cosmetic outfit as I didn’t have to worry about footgear (what self-respecting hobbit would wear shoes, I ask you?) or gloves. Despite that, I cannot think of a better look for her. Anthyllis is very attached to this hat, and it’s part of every single outfit I piece together for her whether you can see it or not (the exception to this being her questing set as the scrolls from the Map-Maker’s Travelling Pack clip through the brim). I even got a compliment on it the other night when I was loitering around Oatbarton! The pieces, in case you’re wondering, are as follows:

Head: Plumed Hat, dyed Umber (Quest Reward: Into the Shadow / Medicine of the Elves)
Chest: Robe of Leisure, dyed Ranger Green (LotRO store)

In this entire process, though, I realized something very important: I need to clean out the wardrobe. There’s so much stuff in there and I think I just started throwing things in there without knowing if I really wanted them in there or not…