By Jason VanHorn
I've played a good number of MMOs by now, but Lord of the Rings Online is easily my favorite of the bunch so far, and the one I've invested the most time in. I remember firing up the game, fretting over if I should be a hobbit since that's the only character race specifically unique to LOTRO, but ultimately I went with the ol' standby by picking an Elf because they are just so majestic and regal. Oh yeah, and because Legolas kicks ass! But then I had to choose a class and I struggled and struggled trying to see what I wanted to be. I ultimately created four characters, dabbled with them, and then eventually chose my loremaster, mainly because it felt the closest thing to being like Gandalf, and I wanted to own a pet to go into battle with me. However, if I knew then what I know now, I just might not have ever created a loremaster to begin with. No, it's not that they suck in combat or anything of that nature…it's just that they have such terrible fashion sense!
It's a trivial thing in reality, but when you've spent hours and hours leveling up your character, taking them through their paces, and going on great adventures, the one thing that always stay constant is you looking at your character, which acts as your visual representation of you. In the beginning I thought nothing of Vanslyke (my avatar) and his fashion sense, because he had a nice enough cape, and frankly everyone was running around in scruffy shoes, shirts, robes, and pants. But as I slowly leveled and spent my money on the latest and best armor I could afford, I noticed that I never got cooler. It was bad enough my armor wasn't as high a rating as the medium and upper ones, but my clothes ever only got slightly more fashionable. Meanwhile, soloing with an alternate character one day – a dwarf tank – I leveled up, bought some armor, and sure enough I already looked cooler than my infinitely higher loremaster.
I continued pressing on and every so many levels, after amassing a good amount of coinage to my name, to the nearest auction house did I go, hoping that the rarer more illustrious pieces of armor would not only provide me with a better rating grade, but better fashion sense as well. Time and time again, however, I'd buyout an auction just because I was overjoyed to see something new, I'd run to the mailbox as quick as I could, detach the item, put it on…and then sulk away disappointed. Sure, I was better protected, but still, who would be caught dead wearing this?!?
Perhaps the greatest injustice came when a fellow kinship member gave me, as a gift, a new hat that was better than the one I was currently wearing, and sure enough I threw that sucker on right away. Of course it was of poor taste, I knew it would be so even before I put it on (for the best hats I'd manage to wear at best looked like something little kids would wear to keep their ears warm up in Michigan come winter time), but little did I suspect for my new hat to suddenly give me the appearance of being a Klu Klux Klan member. Yes, you heard that correct, I looked like I was in the KKK. Atop my head a large and mostly white pointed hat (with a few strips of red) stuck straight up, making me look like the biggest goof and dunce in the world. Still, it provided the better armor, so I kept with it in stride until something new came along.
But it's not just clothes the loremaster is saddled with when it comes to bad fashion sense, because our weapons are just as poor. Too many times have I seen the sweet blade of a fellowship member slicing down an orc, and I could only stand in awe and look at its shining blade. And the hunter, perhaps the coolest of them all, brandishing a bow that looked as if it was made from the antlers of some great deer. Awesome! As for my loremaster, Vanslyke was forced to wield a staff, which was really nothing more than a stick. Each time I got a new weapon I equipped with hope, and each time it was still nothing more than a straight stick with perhaps its color changing ever so slightly. Though my current staff has a slight fan ornament on one end, it still peters down to a jagged point on the other end, making it look like I'm brandishing a toothpick as my weapon of choice.
While still on my 34th level, I decided to take a screenshot of myself to show just what I looked like. I'll admit that the gloves and robe itself looks pretty good, but then you keep scrolling up and…BAM…what's up with that hat? Being a North Carolinian I can deal with the Carolina Tarheel light blue, but what's with the mothballs attached to the side of my hat and the dangling powder puff ball at the very top. Am I wearing a hat or am I wearing some antennae? And yet look to the guy on my right who is dressed to the nines in the fanciest, must luxurious purple armor I've ever seen. Look at that detail and the blades of his gloves! And look at the sweet hat with the angelic like wings protruding from the top! I want a hat like that!
I finally reached the heralded rank of level 35 and with it I also got a new shirt thanks to a quest I had turned in just before to net me my new level. Once again I was filled with hope at the possibility of wearing something grand, but as it turns out, I ended up looking like the Middle-earth version of Captain America. I swear Bucky was somewhere nearby when taking this picture. Would you still have admired Aragorn had he become king looking like this, with a Captain America vest on, pointy staff, and stupid clown hat? I'd think not! Why you'd probably have been more apt to give the crown to Frodo.
I love my loremaster or else I wouldn't have spent so much time developing him, raising his level, and seeking out the best weapons and armor for him, but Turbine, just why did you have to make the loremasters so goofy looking? With Turbine tackling different classes different months and changing them up a bit, I'm hoping they give loremasters some nice new powers, a new pet or two, but more than anything else – give us a sense of style!