This past week, Standing Stone Games announced some upcoming additions players can expect with The Lord of the Rings Online’s expansion due out later this year. Not only was a new race announced, Stout Axe Dwarves, but also announced is a much anticipated feature I’ve personally been waiting for since High Elves came out a few years ago: race changes.
This isn’t to say I’m not excited about a new dwarven race – the dwarves of Middle-earth are one of Tolkien’s more interesting creations from a lore-standpoint, being neither the creation of the enemy nor of Illuvatar himself, but personally I would likely not be playing one. I’ve never played a dwarf in 12 years, I don’t think I’d start now. However, from an RP standpoint, the race change is intriguing. When I created Eldalye Ancalima, the Elvish hunter from Lorien way back in late April 2007, I had clear in my mind he was one of the Noldorin – an exile from Valinor who stayed behind in Middle-earth with Lady Galadriel after the War of Wrath in the First Age. I don’t typically RP in games, but creating this character was special for me. It was my first true character inside what had become my favorite secondary universe – knowing exactly who I’d spend the next 100+ hours of my life pretending to be was important.
However, High Elves didn’t exactly exist as a playable race yet, so I simply substituted that in my character bio – something LOTRO allows to be visible to other players should you choose to RP. I wanted to ensure Eldalye saw the fall of Sauron in the East before he sailed to the Undying West.
However, it was a shame when High Elves were finally put into The Lord of the Rings Online that I couldn’t make my then level 100 Hunter I’d spent over a decade playing and adventuring as an actual High Elf. Instead, if I wanted to take advantage of the new race, I’d need to re-roll.
Now, it’s completely understandable to be required to play a new character in a game to try out a new race, but at the same time the races in LOTRO had started to feel like little more than window dressing. The skills and racial passives that came with playing as an Elf or a Woman felt weak and irrelevant in the higher levels. The race-specific skills, such as the Sylvan Shadows skill for the Elves or an Uppercut for the race of Man are irrelevant (as they were in the early Shadow of Angmar days as well). Race has never felt like more than a way to lock out certain classes and to participate in RP.
Having to start over to play an actual High Elf in LOTRO made me pretty upset at first – so much so that I never got my new Elf over level 10. I simply went back to playing Eldalye. However, with the inclusion of race changes in the upcoming expansion, I can finally create Eldalye the way I envisioned his character way back in 2007. It’s a pretty exciting prospect for me.
SSG have already made clear too for those looking to take advantage of the change that class restrictions still apply. This means we won’t see any Hobbit Lore Masters, Woman Runekeepers and so on. Additionally, this won’t affect Beornings, as that class and race are intrinsically tied. The official forums are full of players who are excited about the prospect of changing one’s race in LOTRO. This addition can also make it easier for established players to try out the new Stout Axe dwarves instead of having to start from scratch – especially exciting if the new race brings something meaningful to the table. At the end of the day it may not seem like much, but being able to finally create the High Elf I wanted since day 1 of The Lord of the Rings Online has me excited beyond description. Hopefully it won’t cost an arm and a leg in Turbine Points, but we’ll obviously know more about that in the coming months as SSG unveils more of their upcoming expansion. Eldalye will finally be counted – officially – among the Noldorin, and while that sentence literally has no bearing on how the character actually will meaningful play in Middle-earth, it goes a long way in making me fall in love of LOTRO’s stories and RP community all over again.