There are few encounters I remember really well than the Balrog fight in The Lord of the Rings Online. The reason isn't simply because facing off against a "Demon of the Underworld" is memorable. It's has more to do with how my Kinship seeming formed an enmity for the Balrog of Morgoth.
To fully understand why this raid in LOTRO is so near and dear to my heart you must know two things: it took my kinship years to beat this; and Balrogs shouldn't have wings. Fighting Thaurlach was my one way of helping to eradicate winged Balrogs from existence (if you want to know more about why Balrogs don't have wings, hit me up on Twitter).
While LOTRO recently celebrated 12 years since they launched, so too did my Kinship. Eruchin, a Kinship I formed with a friend of mine when we both started playing LOTRO at launch, also just celebrated 12 years of existence in Middle-earth. We've always been a small kinship, possibly peaking at one time at about 20 players. This has been on purpose - I had been a part of a large kinship in the MMO previously and simply felt there just wasn't enough focus placed on the people. Rather, this kinship felt more focused on padding its numbers. I didn't want that.
The people who have made Eruchin their home for the last decade or so though are some of the best you'll ever meet in gaming. There's Lathfara and Agarethir, the best LOTRO couple the Middle-earth has ever seen. Halamond, our burglar extraordinaire who despite taking considerable breaks from the MMO is still a higher level than my main. Kreig, our venerable tank, Elleion, a Loremaster with no equal, and there is Jer, who has so many mains I can't keep up sometimes. Then there's Skorp - the red-headed stepchild of Eruchin whose humor - and hunter chops - make him the life of any fellowship. We've had some come and go, such as Ghunar, who at the time was the best healer on Nimrodel. And I do miss Kaboose's harmonica solos on the mic inbetween encounters.
Eruchin grew from humble roots. We were all adults for the most part. Each one of us had jobs, some of us kids or spouses - we are definitely what you'd call casual. Because of our size, we also couldn't run LOTRO's main raid at the time, Helegrod. So we would constantly team up with another kinship on the Nimrodel server (We're now on Arkenstone - RIP Nimrodel!) - There and Back Again - to take on the dragon the then-24 man raid.
So when the The Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu first came to The Lord of the Rings Online as a 12-person raid, we were stoked. We planned our Kinniversary around this raid, and we would do so for years. Not because we found it enjoyable. No. Because we could never finish the instance!
It wasn't for a lack of trying, either. We first ran through the Rift on our 3rd Kinship Anniversary, though many members were running it in PUG groups because I was simply under-leveled (I am, without question, the slowest leveler in the history of LOTRO). However, when we tried running it we spent about 8 hours just on the trash - besting Fumarole and Shadow-Eater alike - to get to the Balrog itself. We'd battle our way through, sometimes struggling with Thrang once we found ourselves in The Pit. But we'd persevere. We'd come to the Bridge so many of us would use to Blood Port simply for fun. Often times we'd stop once we found the Elf Glathlirel, calling it for the night and pick back up the next night.
However, we could never all get back online long enough to complete the Raid. And then, in the times where we would we'd wipe at the final encounter. So we'd pack the raid back up and try again the next year.
And the year after that.
And the year after that.
The Balrog the dwarves uncovered in Moria became known to the world as Durin's Bane. Thaurlach, the Balrog which inhabits the Rift, became lovingly known as Eruchin's Bane thanks to our inability to complete the Raid as a group on Kin Night. Members of our kinship would run with PUG groups or other kins and were able to beat the Rift with them. There was just something about us not being able to best Thaurlach together.
Until finally - finally - Eruchin's Bane was taken down by Eruchin. We fought our way there - definitely over leveled at this point due to the cap being increased - but we finally took down the Balrog. On our Kinship Night a few years back, almost a decade after The Rift launched, Eruchin had defeated Thaurlach. It was a triumphant moment - one that I remember not just because we got the Balrog off our back, but because my first time doing this Raid completely had been done with the very people I enjoyed gaming with the most. We struggled, we fought on. Many of us moved on to other games at one point. But we came together for one more Kinship Night and beat Eruchin's Bane.
As we passed our 12th Anniversary on July 17th, it made me think again about the Balrog of Morgoth sitting in all his false-winged glory. We're all over level 100 now - we'd burn through the raid easily if we decided to hop back into The Rift. But part of me wants to. Part of me wants to rush through Barz, Zogtark, Narnulubat. I want to descend into The Pit and take on Thrang, who at one time was just as much a struggle as Thaurlach became for us. I want to screw up a Fellowship maneuver, causing our venerable Burglar to simply shake his head, realizing the fearless leader of Eruchin was simply a figurehead all along. I want to see how hard we panic when the Darklings emerge during our fight with the Ever-seer.
I just want to see, over leveled or not, if we can complete this in one night now too.
Eruchin isn't as active as we used to be - there are really only a few of us left who log in semi-regularly. But it would be something to get the group back together for one last run at Eruchin's Bane. And when we do, there will be yet one less incorrect depiction of a Balrog in the game.
Though, yes. I'm aware Thaurlach is just there for the next group. Let me have this.