I recently finished the Master Scholar Quest in LotRO for an alt. This was the last quest gating completion of Scholar crafting up until Supreme Master Scholar.
I had carefully wound my way from Esteldin across Nan Amlug towards the canyons of Angmar, stopping only at Aughaire to greet the Stable Master (easy return trips!). From there, I carefully picked a route between the mobs of Fasach-larran, ever careful to give the enemies of the free peoples a wide berth (and fleeing when necessary). My objective, a dwarven book, was at the Cairn of Honor, where even the weeds con’d purple to me. The top of the Cairn was busy with Angmarim. I had read the
cheatstrategy site and knew the general location, but not the exact spot. Not knowing exactly where the book was, I couldn’t just dash and grab. Thankfully, a passing player drew aggro. I ran in, nabbed the objective, and jumped the first Warg back to Aughaire.
What does this have to do with cheating? I finished the Master quest at level 23, far earlier than level 40, the level expected by the LotRO’s designers.
For those that don’t play LotRO, let me explain. The designers, apparently, didn’t intend for crafting to be its own microcosm. Crafting was to be enjoyed as an adjunct to the regular
grindgame of pixelmonster clickingkilling.
To make sure players acted according to their design wishes, a series of quest gates were built into the crafting process. There are five quests, each geared towards a progressively higher level.
- To become Journeyman Scholar: The Path to Learning, Part I, suitable for level 10 characters.
- To become Expert Scholar: The Path to Learning, Part II, suitable for level 20
- To become Artisan Scholar: The Path to Learning, Part III, level 25
- To gain access to a Superior crafting station: Lost Lore of the Free Peoples, level 30
- To become a Master Scholar: The Path to Learning, Part IV, level 40
Grinding crafting levels also requires a fair amount of traveling between far flung locations across dangerous terrain. And many hundreds of crafting resources from random loot drops (of increasing level) or “scholar nodes” (in increasingly dangerous areas) are required. The net effect is to encourage players to level their character’s combat skills as they level their crafting skills.
As they are wont to do, players very quickly sidestepped these requirements and found easier routes. Players twinked lower level alts with gold to buy the mats, got friendly hunters to provide quick transport between major centers, avoiding dangerous travel completely, or begged high level friends to escort them on the quests.
One strategy is to have a high level buddy accompany you (preferably a Lore Master) while you advance as close as possible to the quest objective. Then you find a convenient opportunity to die (if necessary) and wait while your buddy clears the area then rezzes you (if necessary). Once up, you grab the quest objective and die again (if possible) for a quick ride back home. Early on, it was possible to become a Grand Master (at the time, the highest) around character level 10.
For those still reading, I’m going to assume you’re having one of two reactions.
Reaction #1: “Hey, that’s not cheating, it’s just pushing game mechanics.”
Raph Koster has defined cheating for us. He has a beard, so really, who are we to argue.
Cheating is, in the end, violating the spirit of the rules.
Clearly, mastering Scholar at level 23 is against the spirit of the rules as envisioned by the designers. As proof of their intent, I point not only to the suggested quest-gate levels, but also to later patches. The designers added level requirements to fast-travel abilities, thereby preventing Hunters from quick porting a low level character to Rivendell (home of the “Superior Study” craft station). They also added the dreaded red zone mechanic. A zone of too high a level becomes near instant death.
I experienced the red zone on my first attempt at the “Path to Learning Part III”. Basically, the quest requires you to run to Rivendell though hostile territory. I first tried, I think, at level 15 (perhaps earlier). At some point, shortly after crossing the Last Bridge between the Lone-Lands and Trollshaws, the zone turned red. Creatures from faaaar outside the normal aggro range swarmed me. When I died, I spawned well outside the zone (rather than in the usual nearest spawn site).
Clearly the game’s designers don’t want us out leveling our crafting alts. Funny thing though … this kinda makes me try just that much harder to achieve it.
Sneaking to an objective is a far different sensation than fighting your way in at even-level. You wonder just how close you can cut it between those two Wargs without pulling aggro. You give a nervous shoulder check to make sure that Hill Beast hasn’t moved. A mob approaches, you must move now, but you don’t know if there’s an Angmarim over that hill, just beyond tab range. You do know that even the slightest hint of aggro in this zone and you’re toast. There is a sense of danger as you prod the edges of the Cairn, wondering if you can dash to the objective before being cut down or stunned. There is a moment of joy when the guards are distracted by a passing player.
Reaction #2: “You’re cheating, and it’s ruining it for everyone.”
Well what’s it to you. Oh, you’re a game designer. Perhaps you’re even a designer of the one game. So what. I’m a paying customer. I pay for fun. And you know what, sometimes, trying to out think your silly little rules is a whole hell of a lot funner (yes, I wrote funner) than the mindless grind.
And you know what? Any month that I feel entertained is a month I’m not likely to cancel my subscription. That subscription pays your wage, you know.
I admit, there’s a line that can be crossed. At some point, my cheating might detract from the fun of another player, causing them to quit. There’s probably some sort of net fun equation that one could work out I suppose. At some point, you might need to put a stop to my shenanigans. I understand that.
But setting that aside for the moment … Cheating can be fun!