Weatherstock XIII took place over the weekend (We even streamed a little bit of it!) and one aspect Bradford could not shake was just how cool the Lord of the Rings Online community has been over the course of the game's life.
Weatherstock, a fully player-organized concert series that takes place annually on the Landroval server, sees bands taking the "stage" on the pinnacle of the ruined Arnorian tower of Amon Sul to play to their hearts content. The concert, now in its thirteenth year, saw bands take the stage from noon ET all the way through 5pm in the afternoon - and then even take part in an afterparty at the Bree festival grounds.
Almost every major MMO has developer-fueled festivals - large events that give players something to look forward to during holiday seasons or inbetween major content releases, but it's not nearly as common to see long-standing player-driven events like Weatherstock stand the test of time. That's not to say they don't exist elsewhere, however I can't think of one that is as beloved within the community of the game even outside the host server. Players across LotRO (myself included) have characters made on Landroval just to attend this concert yearly, parked at Weathertop to ensure that when we log in we're ready to go.
It's an interesting thing in the LotRO community. No game's community is perfect. There will always be the trolls, the naysayers who are never happy with the direction of the game they spend their hours playing anyway - yet I can't think of a gaming community that better encapsulates the source material's themes better than The Lord of the Rings Online.
One of the major themes running throughout Tolkien's works was the idea of fellowship. I mean, for goodness sake, the major party of adventurer's that set out for the Quest of Mount Doom were called the Fellowship of the Ring. The idea of friends, family, companionship and more are found woven all throughout Tolkien's works.
This is something I feel The Lord of the Rings Online has always nailed, by the way. Quest rewards aren't for your own personal aggrandizement - instead they go a long way to bettering the people of the region you are helping. If you help Fatty Bolger deal with the Crebain in Buckland, Fatty is able to take in his evening meal in piece finally. Taking part in the initial story quests doesn't necessarily point you along the path of the Fellowship, instead you're tasked with helping to secure the old realms that made up the northern kingdom of Arnor from the threat of the Witch-King of Angmar.
There is literally a quest where all you do is walk with Frodo in Rivendell as he ponders whether to take on the quest that would spell his doom. You're not in it purely for yourself, you're in it for the people's of Middle-earth around you.
It's here I feel that Weatherstock, and by large the community around it, best encapsulates what makes LotRO's community great. It's a celebration of not just the bands that take the stage, but the community as a whole. Players who take time out of their day to escort lowbie toons to the concert, lest they be killed in the perilous Lone Lands are just the tip of the iceberg. The community members who organize the concert, the bands that take part in it to entertain and help etch the event into the annals of MMO lore, to the various streamers who ensure that if you can't make it in person, you can still enjoy the hardwork of your community members - this all goes a long way to showing how great the LotRO community can be.
It's also one of the more generous gaming communities out there. There isn't a day I log into LotRO and I don't see someone giving away valuable items to a new player or returning vet to get them started on their way. This isn't unique to The Lord of the Rings Online, mind you, but it does go a long way to further my point: it is a community that encapsulates the source material.
Weatherstock and the celebrations surrounding it make the community itself feel right at home in the source material Tolkien painstakingly wrote throughout his life. One of the most enduring quotes from Tolkien was spoken by Thorin Oakenshield as he (spoilers) lay dying after the Battle of the Five Armies in The Hobbit:
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
Weatherstock, and the greater generosity of the LotRO community, definitely embody that quote.