From there, Campbell teleported the group to a cavernous ice cave that will greet players as they enter the zone for the first time. This biome is sort of a proof of concept for the LotRO dev team going into the upcoming expansion. It was created using a new process that Campbell called "dual-height map technology," basically a streamlined method for creating large underground spaces. We journeyed through the tunnel, inhabited by a few solitary Grim, before reaching a small Lossoth staging area on the other side. It's a typical woodland biome, covered with a light layer of snow. But the rest of Forochel will expand on the idea of "unnatural, bitter cold," as Campbell puts it.
Speaking of the cold, Campbell gave me a brief demonstration of the new blizzard effects that the developers have added in Book 13. At first, the snowfall seemed rather unremarkable. But as the storm intensified, a more disorienting whiteout effect enveloped my character, making it difficult to even discern the outlines of nearby NPCs. This effect isn't unique to Forochel, either; existing zones like the Misty Mountains will also make use of this mechanic after Book 13 goes live.
Campbell and company then led me into a crystalline ice cavern where the epic questline will culminate. I was cautioned not to reveal too much to players, as there are a few big surprises for those who have been captivated by the story so far. Thankfully, I didn't have a clue what was going on! We followed a sinister bloke through a series of scripted encounters that ended in an open-air chamber with a polished-ice floor. Then things got serious. If we weren't all invulnerable, this is where I would have wiped the group numerous times while running around in circles and marveling at the gorgeous starry sky above us. "We like to pull out the extra stops for the epic quests," Campbell boasted.
Thoroughly exhausted from attempting to pretend like I knew what I was doing, Campbell took pity on me and teleported me to his apartment, where he showed me some of the new items available for display in player housing. Campbell's personal favorite? The Frost Antler head. "Because who can go without a good elk head on the wall?" Campbell added, "I would have said 'moose head,' but I've been corrected."
No system exists in a vacuum in LotRO, and the same is true for fishing. The developers are clearly taking a holistic approach to new game mechanics, making sure to weave them into other aspects of the game as they are introduced. "[We] try to extend out some of these systems, as we add in new content to the game, making sure we give that love back to housing, back to other systems in the game such as crafting and cooking," Campbell noted.
We closed the session by taking a look at the Orc Defiler, the new monster-play class that Book 13 will introduce. The Defiler has a lanky, hobbled appearance that is both sinister and a little pathetic. Their main skills are healing and reviving teammates and casting powerful curses on enemy combatants; they have a couple direct-damage attacks but the class was built from the ground up as a primary healer, a role that monster players have clamored for.
The Defiler sports a fetching skull helm with its own upgrade path: You start out wearing a deer skull, then move up to a bear skull, an auroch skull, and finally a drake skull. It's both a cool incentive for monster players wishing to gear out their characters and an indicator of your level of experience to foes. Every member of our party wore a different helm, and while we weren't likely to take anyone down with a group full of primary healers, at least we were guaranteed to stay topped-off during our brief foray into the Ettenmoors.