Lord of the Rings: Online offers several innovative features, many of which are designed to attract both casual and dedicated players. Today, I hope to be able to introduce new players to the aspect of Monster Player vs. Player (MPvP): one of LOTRO's most amazing designs. This unique feature is unlike faction play seen in other MMORPGs where players from each faction go up against each other on a normally equal footing; that is, every faction has access to gear that can make them almost identical to a player of the opposite faction. In MPvP combat, the mould is broken by giving each faction immediate advantages and downsides. For one, monster characters are given no equipment slots, meaning they can not have any sort of gear, and must be improved through the use of equipped class/race traits, passive skills, and active skills.
The monster play feature becomes available when you reach level 10 with any character on the server you're playing on. If you have higher level characters on one server, but wish to engage in MPvP in a server you've never played in before, you will need to reach level 10 before you are able to do so. You will receive an in-game notification the first time you hit level 10 on any given server informing you that you have now unlocked monster play.
MPvP takes place in the Ettenmoors, a large, beautiful zone with several towns. The main objectives in the Ettenmoors, or points of interests, are the five keeps in the map: Lugazag(LG/Lug), Tol Ascarnen(TA), Grimwood Lumber Camp(LC), Isendeep(ID), and Tirith Rhaw(TR). Aside from the keeps, there are also several outposts, camps, and small towns where you can obtain or complete quests. Gramsfoot, located on the north-western edge of the map, is the starting area for monsters. It is also where you will go to trade barter items for new skills or traits.
As a monster, you are on the side of the Army of Angmar, and commonly referred to as a "creep." Your rival faction will be the Free Peoples, or often referred to as "freeps." It is wise to remember these common terms, as well as the abbreviations for the keeps mentioned earlier. The more you MPvP, the more familiar you will become with these locations, and eventually, you will know where everything is without having to think about it.
One thing to keep in mind: monster players do not receive mounts, and as such, transportation can prove difficult to beginning monsters. The only way for a monster to quickly get somewhere, is through the use of maps. Maps come in three types of quality: crude, poor, good. Each one has a lower cool down than the last, eventually allowing you to move from one area to the other quickly in the event that the Free Peoples' army decides to attack somewhere else. The Ettenmoors is quite large, and other than maps, you're going to be on foot. Maps are obtained by completing quests for each keep while they're under your control.
Now that you're familiar with the layout of the land, and what your goals are as a monster, let's discuss the actual monsters. There are six "classes" to choose from when creating a monster character: Orc Reaver, Orc Defiler, Uruk Blackarrow, Uruk Warleader, Weaver, Stalker. You are allowed to play one of each class, but can not have multiple characters of one class. If you are unhappy with one of the characters' name or progress, you may "reset" the character, allowing you to play the same class with a different name from the beginning, but deleting all previous progress that monster character had.
Once your monster character is created, you will begin your journey as a rank zero recruit in the Army of Angmar. You will be given a few quests in Gramsfoot to get your character started, and to familiarize you with the Ettenmoors. Since monster characters do not have any gear, the only way to advance them is through the use of your Destiny Points. The best way to gain Destiny Points as a monster, is to take one of the five keeps from the Free Peoples and claim them for Angmar. This is achieved by killing the leader of the keep, an NPC with roughly 130,000 health or more. There are also several raid/group quests that can be completed, and offer large amounts of destiny points based on the objectives. Monster player quests are repeatable, but have a cool down. Once a quest is turned in, depending on the quest, it will become available for completion again in an hour, an hour and a half, etc.
Destiny points are not the only way to obtain skills or traits. Once Angmar has taken hold of three keeps or more, a PvE group instance called the Delving of Fror will become available. The instance entrance for monsters is located at Dar-Gazag, which is south of Gramsfoot. Within the instance you'll find regular mobs, elite mobs, and even bosses, each dropping different barter items that you can later use at the traders in Gramsfoot to obtain skill or trait improvements. This is unique, in that you're not farming for gear, or even for rare tokens that you exchange for gear. No, this is different. Every mob drops some sort of barter item, meaning you will always walk away from the Delving of Fror with a low-quality barter item, at the very least.
"Great! I completed a few quests, joined a raid, and we took Lugazag in the name of Angmar. What do I do now?" no doubt the question we all ask ourselves as beginner monster players. Monster player advancement can be done at one of two trainers located in Gramsfoot or Dar-Gazag. Advancement in the form of skills and traits, as opposed to a gear-based progression is a completely unique system; as a monster, you choose where you need improvement. Do you want a lot of morale? Higher armor? Higher avoidance? The choice is really yours. Based on your character's needs, you can decide where it needs additional bonuses, and instead of spending hours farming for gear that may not drop, or go to somebody else, you can simply spend some time doing quests, killing players, taking keeps, grouping in the Delving of Fror, all of which guarantee either barter items, destiny points, or infamy for all monster players involved. Now, before you go off running gathering 30,000 destiny points to spend on all your currently available skills and traits, you should know that some skills and traits have rank restrictions, meaning that you must reach a certain infamy rank before you are able to purchase them, and so, it is sometimes wise to save some points for skills or traits that will become available in the future.
That brings us to one last form of advancement for monster players: Infamy Ranks. Infamy Ranks are obtained when you accumulate enough infamy points to move into the next rank. These infamy points can only be obtained by killing players. Sometimes, if your faction holds all the keeps, raids will still form to fight players outside of a keep, or out in the open simply to obtain infamy points. As mentioned previously, moving up in ranks means you will have access to: better skills, traits, potions, skins, etc. This is yet another distinctive way to improve your character, and make it all the more fearsome in battle.
Also, just because you're a monster doesn't mean you won't receive any recognition from your masters! With each new rank, you will have new titles available. You will also have access to monster-only deeds that you can complete. For example, kill 500 dwarves, and you will obtain the title "Dwarf-foe,"or kill 500 burglars and you will be known as "Snitch-killer." To receive progress towards these deeds, you must be the one to land the killing blow on the target.
Keeping everything discussed in mind, it should be made clear that the monster aspect of the game is by no means a PvE driven feature. Indeed, you will be able to run an instance with a group of friends, or even complete some group quests together that do not involve killing players. However, PvE lovers will miss one important aspect of PvE: "what do I have to show for all this?" Your monster character does not bring any benefits to your regular characters, and if you are not engaging in PvP, you are probably not getting many destiny points, and you are not obtaining infamy points, which mean you will not be able to reach higher ranks of accomplishment with your monster.
With that being said, monster play not only features the player-vs.-player action that a lot of MMORPG fans these days crave, but also introduces innovative advancement features not seen in many other games. Most games rely on instance gear, or gear you obtain as you reach higher PvP ranks in order to fight other players more effectively, and while that remains true for regular characters in Lord of the Rings: Online, monster players will find a whole new world of advancement to look forward to, and dozens of fearsome achievements to be proud of.