I've been toying with the idea of running two blogs, one specifically set up to diary a completely F2P experience and a 'normal' blog, but after some research and consideration I rejected the idea. It's entirely possible to do darn near everything in the game without spending any cash, but it's a long and grindy road. As a new player with a highly completionist bent I am facing quite a grind no matter how I play, but the surest way for me to get bored and quit is to take on two grindapaloozas at the same time, so I decline. I salute anyone who does play sub-optimally and conquers hurdle after hurdle to emerge victorious, but since I have a paid account I shall just stick to that. I still have multiple accounts for the purpose of keeping my vanity Kinship alive, and for reference purposes.
Since I take a ridiculous amount of notes while I play, and I love resources, I plan to compile as much as I can for the benefit of the new LotRO player (yes, they do indeed exist). Resources are far and few between these days with more established bloggers leaving the game, and the excellent site MMorsel has finally come down. It was a well crafted and thorough source of information, even though it had long since been abandoned, but the domain finally expired on the 23rd of August, and it is no more. I could never hope to match it in breadth and ease of use, but I will give it a darned good try. I'm going to play through the game and update as I go along, so please understand that lists I generate are a work in progress.
So, we'll start at the beginning.
A Not-So-Brief Word on Account Types
LotRO is a free to play (F2P) game with a subscription option and a cash store. The cash store uses Turbine Points (TP) as currency which you can purchase online or in a store by buying a redeemable card. You can also earn (TP) in game, and VIP members are allotted 500 TP every month.
There are 3 different tiers of account types available to players joining LotRO today. F2P means just that, you've spent no actual money on the game and have quite a few restrictions. VIP is a subscriber and you have considerable access to the game. Premium players have more access than F2P but not as much as VIP. If you spend any real money on the game either through the purchase of Turbine Points or by subscribing for some period of time and then cancelling or by purchasing any expansion with real cash then you are permanently upgraded to Premium.
F2P --> Premium <--> VIP
Premium offers more access and benefits than F2P, and VIP offers more access and benefits than Premium. There are benefits and upgrades for all tiers available for purchase and there are benefits and upgrades which only certain tiers can purchase.
The most important differences between account types relate to content and features. We'll go over them individually.
Middle Earth is designed as an open world, with no loading screens between zones (for the most part). Any player can wander wherever they like. What is available to do in those zones is different depending on your account type. Zones can contain the epic storyline (the actual Lord of the Rings story as per the book), quests, repeatable quests, dungeons, and raids. Dungeons are either public (anyone can enter and you all see each other) or instanced (you queue with a group and see only other group members).
F2P accounts have access to zone content for the 3 racial starting zones, Ered Luin (Dwarves and Elves), the Shire (Hobbits) and Breeland (Men). Breeland is actually 2 zones in one, with the lower level area of the Chetwood serving as the starter, and the greater zone serving as the 2nd zone (level 10ish to 20ish) for everyone. F2P also has access to the Lone Lands which provides questing for level 22 to 35. Additional questing zones (quest packs) must be purchased with TP.
Premium players have the same level of quest access as F2P.
VIP players have access to all standard questing. Everyone must purchase expansion quest packs.
To summarize, the zones by level content are as follows:
- The Shire - 1 to 13 (Everyone)
- Ered Luin - 1 to 15 (Everyone)
- Breeland - 1 to 24 (Everyone)
- North Downs - 18 to 40 (Purchasable - 595 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Trollshaws - 30 to 50 (Purchasable - 595 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Evendim - 32 to 40 (Purchasable - 595 TP) ( Free to VIP)
- Misty Mountains - 39 to 50 (Purchasable - 695 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Forochel - 39 to 52 (Purchasable - 595 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Angmar - 40 to 52 (Purchasable - 795 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Eregion - 45 to 55 (Purchasable - 695 TP) (Free to VIP)
- ***Expansion Quests - Moria - 51 to 60 (Purchasable by All - 1495 TP)
- Lothlorien - 55 to 60 (Purchasable - 695 TP) (Free to VIP)
- Enedwaith - 60 to 75 (Purchasable - 695 TP) ( Free to VIP)
- ***Expansion Quests - Mirkwood - 61 to 65 (Purchasable by All - 695 TP)
- ***Expansion Quests - Isengard - 66 to 75 (Purchasable by All - 1495 TP)
- The Great River - 72 to 75 (Purchasable - 795 TP) (Free to VIP)
- ***Expansion Quests - Rohan - 75 to 85 (Purchasable by All - 1495 TP)
- Wildermore - 83 to 85 (Purchasable - 795 TP) (Free to VIP)
Character Classes - All account types have immediate access to 7 of the 9 character class types and can purchase the ability to create the 2 premium classes (Runekeeper and Warden) individually. Purchasing the class will unlock it for your account. You could then go on to create an account full of that class if you so chose.
Character Slots - F2P get 2 slots, Premium gets 3 and VIP gets 5 slots per server. All account types can purchase more up to a maximum of 17.
Inventory - F2P and Premium get 3 bags, VIP gets 5. All account types can purchase more.
Gold Cap - F2P can carry a maximum of 2 gold, Premium 5 gold and VIP are unlimited. F2P and Premium accounts can purchase a cap removal with TP.
Auctions - All account types can bid on up to 20 auctions. F2P players cannot list without purchasing that ability. Premium can list up to 5 auctions and can purchase the ability to post more. VIP can list up to 30 auctions.
Mail - F2P players cannot mail currency. Premium can mail currency up to their gold cap. VIP players have no limits.
Rested XP - only available to VIP players. It is a perk of subscribing.
Shared Storage - Account wide banking is purchasable by all account types.
Crafting Guild Membership - Free and unlimited to VIP players and purchasable by F2P and Premium accounts
Cosmetic Outfits - VIP get 3, F2P and Premium get 2. More outfit slots are purchasable by all.
Shared Wardrobe (Clothing Storage) - VIP are granted 20 slots and can purchase more. F2P and Premium must purchase access.
Destiny Points - these are points earned in game which can be spent on a variety of temporary character enhancements. A full list appears here. These points can be earned by all account types, but can only be spent by VIP players.
This is not an exclusive list, but covers the major points of difference between each of the accounts. Some things are purchased on a per character basis. Some things are purchased on an account wide basis. Some things revert when you drop from VIP to Premium, and some don't. Some things remain for characters you have played while VIP, while others revert. It's rather confusing actually.
For the sake of simplicity, I will quote the following from LotRO Wiki:
If a subscription is cancelled or the time of a game card expires, a VIP account is automatically downgraded to a Premium account at the end of the remaining subscription period. Some features are maintained while most are no longer available.
Features maintainedSome features are maintained when downgrading from VIP to premium. All these features are only maintained for characters logged into while the VIP status was active; characters created after downgrading from VIP and characters that were created before or during VIP but were not logged into during VIP do not have access to these features. The per-character unlocks also function for content the character hasn't reached yet due to level or other restrictions. For example, trait slots the character isn't eligible for when downgrading are still available when he reaches the appropriate level for them.
The following features are maintained on a per-character basis:
- Swift Travel
- 5 Inventory bags
- All Trait slots available
- No maximum Gold limit
Handling of removed featuresDowngrading removes all VIP features not described in the previous paragraph. Handling of the removal of some of those features is described below:
- Monster classes that become unavailable cannot be played until that class is purchased.
- If downgrading causes a player to go over his character slot limit, he must select one or two characters to give up. These characters are not deleted, but become unavailable until he purchases the extra character slot(s) or resubscribes.
- Deeds and quests in progress can be finished.
- Rested XP can be consumed, but is no longer generated.
- Items placed in the wardrobe can be used and dyed but not replaced.
- Crafting guild access is maintained but can no longer be increased.
- Auctions in progress are maintained but no new auctions can be posted above the cap."
Before I decided to subscribe I took a really good look at what each tier offered. Then I made a list of all the upgrades I would reasonably want to buy (for the account and for each character) and tallied up the cost. I still keep this list handy because not everything on the list is included with a subscription. This helps me budget my Turbine Points and keeps me from making foolish or impulsive store purchases. I don't see the need to purchase points on top of paying a subscription.
I do feel, though, that I get the most bang for my buck by subscribing, and frankly I think giving my entertainment company of choice a reliable income is good for the game longterm. I'm used to it in any case having paid Blizzard for the past 6 years.
My initial decision to explore LotRO coincided with a sale on the Mithril Edition. I had poked around MMOrsel and Casual Stroll to Mordor (CTSM) prior to account creation so I knew the advantages of having a paid account and what a great deal the Mithril Edition was regardless of it being on sale. It was akin to deciding to play WoW and finding out the Battlechest is on sale. The purchase made a good chunk of the game available to me, an account bound mount, extra bags, and lots of other goodies. The Mithril Edition is periodically available on Steam, sometimes for as little as $5.
Can I Reasonably Play as F2P?
Well, the answer to this question hinges on your personal tolerance level for grinding. You could theoretically play out the game and purchase the necessary quest packs with Turbine Points earned in game without ever having to drop a nickel on LotRO. The explanation of how to do it is rather lengthy so that will be the topic of my next post.