I'm loathe to call the Fellowship of the Ring "lazy," but it's time to get a move on. Sure, Elrond's peaceful and magical sanctuary of Rivendell might be a safe and idyllic resting place, but as we all know, the narrative must continue. Frodo has made up his mind to accept the One Ring as its bearer, the Fellowship has formed around him as companions and bodyguards and their respite must end as they continue their journey towards Mount Doom. As those familiar with Tolkien's epic might know, the next stop on the long and arduous road to Mordor is the ancient Dwarven stronghold of Moria.
The Fellowship's exodus from Rivendell is the focal point for The Lord of the Rings Online's upcoming Book 14 - the final major content update for the game before the first expansion, Mines of Moria. Turbine's Aaron Campbell (LotRO's Live Producer) and Adam Mersky offered to walk me through some of the new content and show me what was what.
The first bit Campbell showed me was actually the very scene where the Fellowship departs. My character, a Dwarf Guardian decked out in the finest gear possible, stood with Elrond and Bilbo Baggins as Frodo, Aragorn and the others resumed their journey. Gandalf thanked me for my efforts to aid the Fellowship (gratitude that will likely make more sense to players who have done the previous quests in the storyline). The devotion and enthusiasm that the LotRO developers continue to have for the source material was obvious, and I was pleased to see that even Bill the Pony was in the scene - Campbell and Mersky assured me that Bill would have his own role to come in Moria.
After seeing the Fellowship off (unable to accompany them, of course - Tolkien might have taken issue with that) I continued my tour of Book 14. Though the developers plan to launch Moria alongside a final Book 15 to lead players into the expansion, Book 14 is the last true pre-Moria patch, and as such is intended to be a sort of "bookend," wrapping up the first days of LotRO - and simultaneously giving a sneak peek at what's to come.
One new concept introduced in Book 14 was "session play," which Campbell told me was inspired by the popularity of an existing quest where players take on the role of a defenseless little chicken. From this came the idea of allowing players to control a Troll in the Ettenmoors, and Campbell demonstrated the full evolution of the concept. The idea is surprisingly (perhaps deceptively) simple - session play involves players taking control of a character not their own to play through a dungeon tailor-made to this particular avatar.