There is a surprisingly long link in my mind between the Lord of the Rings and Christmas. Although I did not receive Tolkien’s trilogy as a Christmas present, I can recall being thrilled as a child to find the mention of Yule in the Shire calendar in the appendix of the Return of the King. The three movie versions all came out in late December as well, and it became a Christmas tradition to see each one with my Dad on Christmas day (after dinner at a Chinese restaurant). Therefore, I have no problem linking the Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) with Christmas festivities.
A Holiday Tradition
Each December since it came out, LOTRO has had a Yuletide festival weaving into the characters and story of the game. New things have been added each year, including quests, titles, special Yule furnishings, and more. There is even a quest to save Yule from the miserly machinations of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins! (For that Last quest, you’re rewarded with a festively decorated tree… appropriate for the season.)
This year, however, Turbine, the company that produces LOTRO, has really outdone itself! A new region called Frostbluff has been added, including the town of Winterhome. This new area comes with its own quests, titles, and festivities, as well as a snowball fight minigame. The most intriguing aspect of Winterhome, however, is that it offers a classic holiday conundrum – gaiety versus generosity.
It seems that the mayor of Winterhome has been planning for the festival of Yule all year. He has used his position to make the rich people of Winterhome richer while the poor people get poorer. The workers do everything while the rich are idle, and those workers who oppose the mayor’s position have lost their jobs and become beggars. Of course the mayor tries to sweep the beggars under the carpet, and therein lies the conundrum.
Not Exactly Horde vs. Alliance
There are two opposing quests in Winterhome. One is given by the mayor’s captain of the guard; this quest is to roust the beggars out of town. Successful completion of this quest grants you special coins that can be used to purchase special Yule items. The other quest, given by one of the town workers, is to give some of these special coins to those same beggars. Completion of this quest gains you nothing tangible… it literally costs you rewards that you have to earn by other quests. This all culminates in your character being given a choice; will you side with the mayor or with the workers and beggars? If you side with the workers and beggars, you get a rather shabby outfit for your trouble as well as a title – the Blameless. If you side with the mayor, you do get a snazzy outfit, but you also earn the title Miser.
I’m sad to admit that, while I’ve seen many people rousting the beggars, very few people seem to be doing the quest that loses some coins. I’ve done it, but I’d be lying if I said I’d done it more than once. In my own defense, I have never done the rousting beggars quest, and I never intend to. When the choice comes, I intend to side with the workers and beggars against the mayor. I admit that I covet the outfit one gets for aiding the mayor, but helping him would fly in the face of the way I role-play my hobbit minstrel.
The Play’s the Thing
One other very entertaining addition in Winterhome, is the Frostbluff theater. This theater is putting on a play – a very entertaining version of what happened at Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party. If you’re in the audience when the play is about to begin, you can be chosen at random to fill-in for missing actor. If you stay in the audience, you have the opportunity to throw flower petals or rotten fruit at the actors, depending on how they’re doing. There’s also an amusing little Easter egg in the theater for fans of the original Muppet Show.
Is it worth checking out this new content? If you’re already playing the LOTRO, absolutely. If you’re not playing LOTRO, then maybe not, but the game is free to play and extremely fun. It does take a very long time to download the latest version, so if you’ve never played before, you may have a bit of a wait before you can start.
Which Would You Pick?
Holiday spirit aside, what faction would you decide to aid? Would you help the mayor, get the awesome outfit, and be branded a miser? Or would you choose the blameless path, assist the workers, and accept that sometimes the righteous way doesn’t offer any obvious reward?