LotRO: The Sorrow of the Craftars

10 May

Don’t get me wrong by the title, I think crafting in LotRO is better, or at least more interesting and useful than in WoW, and not as tedious or dangerous as in EQ2 (you are seldom subject to a death penalty!).  However, as Tobold and other bloggers have been noting, crafting in LotRO is far from perfect at this point.

Crafting is not for everyone.  Implementation of crafting systems in various games seems to vary from trivial:

“oh look at that, you can make a hat from a folded newpaper.  That’s neat” Yawn and move on.

to full-on uber 1337 ultrahardcore:

“it only took me seven years off grinding foozles on the flaming plane of fire, but I finally got the pristine horgensplicer drop, now just 5,000 more cufflinks and I can make the crystalline swizzlestick of doom (which is bind on acquire, which I didn’t notice until I made it…).”

At its worst, crafting in MMOs is the equivalent of the anti-raid.  Like raiding, it requires extraordinary efforts and commitments of time.  Unlike raiding, the vast majority of this is most often solo grinding for materials or rare drops.  Like raiding, the reward to commitment ratio (on its face) is dubious at best.  Still, we do it.

Most crafting systems require players to obtain both vast quantities of basic materials (or obtain exceedingly rare ones) and endure some form of economic hardship to advance their skill.  I’ll throw creating of items of little or no utility into the economic hardship bucket.  So far, in these aspects, LotRO is not really different.  From what I’ve experienced so far, most tradeskill professions suffer from one or both of these ills and long for tweaks.

How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm?

There’s an old joke, “How do you make a small fortune in farming?  Start with a large one.”  Farming in LotRO seems no different.  I like the idea:  buy seed, water and fertilizer, grow your crop and see what you get.  You get saleable product, raw materials (which can be reprocessed into seeds) or both.  You’ll never get your fertilizer or water back.  You’d think with so many damned boars wandering around that fertilizer, of all things, should be in abundance.  You’ll also never get all your seeds back (question: why not?  I could reseed a field of corn by saving one row for the next crop IRL) and you never get back the cost of your water and fertilizer inputs if you vend your saleable product.  Top it off with auction fees and the limited use for basic products (no one really needs cooking) and you have a recipe for economic disaster.

Farming is a particularly egregious example, because of the requirement of vendor components the pricing of which is more than nominal.  There really isn’t a work around for kinship mates sending you, as the designated “kinship farmer,” all the manure and water they collect in the their travels.  Even if they did, there is little market for pipeweed (a pure vanity product with no in game effect other than smoke rings) or food items for cooking.

Which brings me to one main problem in all these systems:  utility.  I don’t mind useless items that might be economically neutral or even only slightly negative until a skill level is improved, but IMHO, all crafters should have some kind of bread and butter products to allow them to continue their advancement.  Food should be important enough that farmers will grow inputs and cooks will make it because players need it.  Think of it as Michaelangelo painting signs and billboards for a living while increasing his skill to the point where he is Sistine Chapel-worthy.  Not exciting, but hey, its a living– not an expensive hobby.

A Tailor of two Suities 

Tailoring is not much better right now.  Vast quantities of leather are required which requires grinding mobs which drop them.  Unfortunately, for medium leather, medium hides drop from around level 14 wolves while the recipes requiring these inputs are base level 10, so there almost no way to keep your tailoring skill at level to self-equip.  Likewise, light armor requires vendor purchased inputs putting it in nearly the same category as farming.  And of course, drops and quest rewards at-level are superior to equivalent tailored items.

The man in the can 

Metalsmithing is actually a bright spot here.  Heavy armor can be made well in advance of the time that the first class, Guardians, obtain the ability to wear it at level 15.  Granted a suit of heavy bronze is not epic, but its such a decent upgrade for the l15 Guardian that at least this portion is a viable skill.  Ahh, utility.

Back to school 

My scholar will have to take summer school because he’s falling behind in his school work. With a relatively rare spawn rate for relics in ruins, no minimap radar for them, and relatively high input quantities, this will be a slog.  I could probably sell all the lore scrolls I could make for quest turn ins if I could find enough materials to make them, but I can’t.  Dyes aren’t bad, but all dye recipes are drops and require vendor purchased inputs as well…

Waxing pessimitic 

Finally, wither the poor woodworker/forester.  While processing leather is simply like smelting ore: go to the craft station and have at it, processing wood requires a vendor purchased input of wax at 48 coppers a throw.  Ouch.  That’s quite a bit of silver to throw down on refining a raw.

Craftyaanisqatsi– a system out of balance 

Seems like two aspects of LotRO’s crafting system might be susceptible to “rebalancing” easily enough.  Vendor prices for required inputs and sale prices for base crafted items could easily be tweaked to make this less of a negative proposition.  Even reducing the price of optional recipes sold by crafter NPCs would help the utility issue.  It doesn’t make sense that I should have to drop more than 100 silver to get linen or tough leather recipes to make only near-at-level items.  At this point in the game, that is a losing investment except for completeists.

Other non-monetary problems are tougher to deal with.  Crafted items should be craftable at-level and useful (not uber, but useful) at that level.  Over all quantities are high, but bearable.  With input quantities where they are, its really only viable to be a manufacturer if you have kinship members or alts supporting you with hides, ore, etc.  That’s ok.  Not great for a soloist, but bearable.  Among our wee kinship, we’ve effectively reached that conclusion very quickly after just a few weeks.

Absent making all the professions useful at-level, crafting becomes merely a hobby to be undertake in the higher level future by the idle wealthy rather than the means to advancement it should be.  I’m still crafting away, but I’m beginning to sound like all those “Woe is me” Elves still haunting middle-earth. ;)  Turbine fix me!


Posted by on May 10, 2007 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “LotRO: The Sorrow of the Craftars

  1. Still Searching

    January 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for a very informative post. Ever since Star Wars Galaxies was turned into WoW: Star Wars, I’ve been looking for a game with good crafting/non-combat professions. I know it’s lame, wanting to pay $15 bucks a month just to make things, or my hope for LOTRO, farm, but, that’s all I want. I’ve held off quite a while, mostly for economic reasons than anything, but was about to shell out the cash to try the farming out. Seeing your review however has just saved me $50 upfront, and however much it would take me to get to a point where farming is fun.

    Looking at the post-date, have there been any improvements in the last year? Anything that would change my mind?

  2. Mortanah

    February 9, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Well I would have to say this was the most negative aproach to the subject that I have seen though I do agree with your opinion on woodworking the others I see as a very viable and necesary part I the game. The scholar would be the one I most disagree on and I’m not sure if you just didn’t figure out how to turn on the tracker but it does work. It does take a little exploration to find a good spot to farm scholar nodes. It at lvl 26 I have found a spot where you can optain enough nodes to make 600 silver worth of stuff ( and that’s selling to vendors) another benifit of scholars is the ability to make healing potions which are incredible valuable to any player short of a mine. Also the ability to make scrolls for various purposes has proved quite valuable. Now as for farming I have made a gross amount of profit. Lore masters require shire sweet leaf who h can be made for about 10 silver at the most and sold for close to a hundred if the supply is not to high and if it is they with always sell for 50 silver which is five times the input amount . I have found that blueberry muffins are also a great seller as well as the blueberry to make them . And yes tho pipeweed is a pure vanity product isn’t that what society is based on. Personally I run around and give teer 5 pipeweed for free just cause otsbsp cheep to make and I think that everyone should enjoy it. As per weaponsmithing I have found that I have neenahle to keep muself in beter than quested armour almost all the way till lvl 27 which then I got a lvl 36 char to make me critted armour , I haven’t had as much luck with making a profit with this one but later on when you can prospect dwarf iron you make a mint. As for the rest well I’m tired of typing and believe that you just need to me a lotle more patient with this subject towns a go of it instead of trying to find all the things wrong with it.

  3. likalaruku

    October 10, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I’ve played a few MMOs, but only a few had crafting good or annoying enough for me to remember.

    LOTRO: Horrid crafting. Doesn’t explain how to activate tracking, You get 3 predetermined skills in a set that are so ill suited to eachother that you’re dependant on other players o0r AH for crafting some ingredients. & that’s downright unforgivable.

    Runes of Magic: Better than LotRO & more straight-forward than RIFT, but slow as a turtle race on land.

    RIFT: Faster than RoM, lets you pick which 3 skills you want, & for a little cash, you can unlock ALL crafting abilities. Items sell for little more than what they cost to make, so it’s not a good way to make money unless you enchant them & sell them in AH. Then you hit level 50, where ingredients become special & irritating to make or get, every bit as soul sucking as fishing. At this point I said “fuck it” & just used the AH from that point on.

    Ragnarok 2: The fastest, most pain-free crafting I’ve ever experienced.

    ArcheAge: Is it really a F2P game if you have to pay real money to unlock the ability to craft?

    Trove: You don’t craft armor & weapons here, but furniture & block dying. Getting the recipes to unlock craftables is a never ending chore, but the actual crafting takes seconds, & a lot of things use the same ingredients.


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