Nice Dagger

Long-time readers have seen several versions of my dissatisfaction with LotRO’s epic chain, in which you mostly provide support for the heroes of the story of Shadows of Angmar™. This is not the main cast of The Lord of the Rings, rather the local cast developed for the game, and you (pay to) play their supporting cast.

This weekend, the kin fielded a group to help someone run the last mission of Volume I. Yes, there is a buff to let you solo everything now, but it is an escort mission. You are familiar with how escort missions translate into suicidal NPCs, and LotRO players realize that Sara Oakheart is the central menace of Shadows of Angmar™ after the second or third time you escort her through certain doom. (You think I’m kidding.) So we fielded a group to support our friend who was supporting the NPC.

Jump to the very end of the quest. There we are, surrounding the redeemed elf as she confronts the Big Bad. It is not quite a cut scene; you lose control of your character and the camera, but it is still happening right there in front of your characters. It is odd to watch your characters just watching it happen. The villain has her at his mercy, taunting her as he lingers over the deathblow. “Wow, guys, think we should do something? She looks like she’s in trouble. If only our characters cared enough to help her out.”

And then, my apologies if this is a shocking spoiler, the good guys win. She pulls out a dagger and stabs the Big Bad through the chest: one-shot on a 150,000 hit point archnemesis. Maybe that was a devastating critical, but if she is carrying around a weapon that can deal 150,000 damage, why are we here? Why didn’t she use that earlier on the 20,000 hit point enemies? She was just sloughing for the entire epic chain!

: Zubon

14 thoughts on “Nice Dagger”

  1. That would be a moment where video game mechanics give way to narration, one of the better handled such IMO (Eru knows they do it wrong other times). Nothing inherently wrong with that. Keep perspective, bro.

    Hey remember that time you fought and defeated a Nazgul all by yourself? Or when you single-handedly breached the terrible defense perimeter of Eastern Angmar where the Dunedan you’re working with feared to tread? You don’t seem to mention these sorts of things in any of these posts about how lame it is to never be the hero in the Epic Quest Line.

    If you want to be the only hero all the time, you’re in the wrong /mythology/. It’s fundamentally an ensemble. It just is. Part of the appeal to fans is that the world is so fleshed out that there are things beyond even our heroes, and even beyond their heroes.

    When Gandalf told Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli et al. to run from the Balrog so he could solo it, they didn’t blog about it, they went and did OTHER epic stuff!


    1. … other epic stuff, like getting captured by a small patrol of elves, riding on boats and… deciding to separate.

      “Bad grp, sry g2g, gl.”

      1. “worsts group ever im juts gonna solo bye guyz”

        Ah, never gets old. :)

        Everything in this genre requires a suspension of disbelief for the sake of narrative. The mechanics just clash too much.

        Take the vaunted Cataclysm-revised undead zone of World of Warcraft: (some spoilers follow)

        My itty bitty level 10 undead rides beside Sylvanus Windrunner as she decides to tell her entire personal life story to me, a noob Forsaken in her massive army because I’m one of the most promising soldiers she has… *does a double-take looking at her 345,456k+ hp versus my own not-quite-past-triple-digits hitpoints*

        Then the same 345,456k hp raid-mob worthy Sylvanus… gets one-shot in a cutscene by an elite mob with a couple thousand hp for the sake of narrative, and her three Valkir minions sacrifice themselves to rez her.

        I’m thinking “gee, you don’t get to graveyard ghost like the rest of us?” and “wow, I want his backstabby gun that does 300,000k damage”

        But eh, the cutscene’s still a lot more memorable than killing 20 wolves or boars because the war effort needs supplies.

        Think it ties in overall with this recent Escapist article on difficulty and how memorable a game is. If it’s hard, if it’s something that you had to strive toward and create a personal narrative around, it sticks in the mind more than just watching a movie or cutscene of someone else doing it.

        The middle of the road being a cutscene that puts you, the player, in the central position of importance rather than a supporting character… but still requires suspension of disbelief from time to time.

  2. You know many people seem to fall on the side of that fence in LoTRO – they just can’t seem to get past the fact that they can never be the focus of the ‘main’ plotline (the fellowship – and destroying the ring).

    I have to imagine there are many like me who just enjoy participating in the periphery of the story because they enjoy the world and attention to detail that went into the wold crafting.

    But what the heck do I know – I have been a paid sub from Angnmar and my highest level character is still not quite level 40.

    LoTRO has been my very slow burn MMO – and I enjoy every bit of it when I play it due to that reason I suppose.

    1. I’m with you Delurm. I have a 47 and a 50 (the 50 was with a static group that met once per week for 2 hours). The 47 was my first character and I still log in every week or so to do something. I’m in no rush and I don’t mine being an observer because I do love the setting more than anything else. I just enjoy “being there”.

  3. I like that there are side-plots to the epic. It wouldn’t have made sense for us to be part of the fellowship or following them too closely.

    I do find the Moria epics to be slow though. I know I’m helping the dwarfs and all, but I just want to get past it more than help them. They seemed to do a hell of a lot in there without me, not sure why they need me now.

    Her final one-shot at the end? Isn’t this in all media? Movies? Comics? Books? Don’t most of us think about it a bit later and wonder why the hero couldn’t have used the same skill or tactic 2 hours before? So my question is do you get equally annoyed at movies that employ this? Or are you just annoyed with the epic quest lines in general?

  4. If I’m not mistaken, most of the NPCs involved throughout the latter half of Volume I also tend to recognize your efforts and heap the lion’s share of the credit of any successes (of which in true Tolkien fashion are actually somewhat infrequent) at the PC’s feet. The person going through the questline IS the hero…it’s just that there are a lot of other personalities there, some who have taken part in world-shaping moments in Middle Earth history who are taking a lot of the limelight. Kind of like what happened to Bilbo in The Hobbit.

    I agree, some of the cutscenes may have had a similar feel to allowing Voltron to form instead of blasting it to pieces in the process, but if you could have abandoned narrative in those scenes or had elf-chick-McImportantNPC kill everything with super dagger, uhh…then Voltron would have never been a show. Or something.

  5. Adrenaline rush.

    Maybe she forgot that she had tipped the dagger with Mithril.

    Perhaps she had the strength of the ancients imbued within her at the last moment.

    Knife through heart: Big Bad’s only weakness!

  6. So the Big bad guy gets taken down. Should it be down in plain fantasy in that it takes a sword of uber-awesomeness that explodes lightning? Or does it seem more powerful, in the Tolkien setting, that the giant bad guy, all powerful, and makes mortals tremble before them, is brought low and taken down by a simple dagger.

    It fits in Tolkien’s theme that an individual, no matter the size, can make the biggest impact.

  7. I know it jars, but it’s part of the whole suspension of belief. Just like the 10(?) year old question that rocked the RPG world at that time – why did Cloud use a Phoenix Down on Aeris?

    If the Internet was as it is now back then, it might have exploded.

    1. We do not get to plead “suspension of disbelief.” Otherwise, just throw Pokémon in the game and have hobbits pee fire. What, that breaks the established setting? Right! If you establish rules for your world and then ignore them when it looks narratively convenient, people notice that you broke your story.

      Yes, if resurrection is cheap and easy, you need a good reason why it wasn’t done.

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