Tag Archives: crafting

My plan for my F2P Turbine Points

So I posted this question a couple days ago (the poll is still open) but I figured I’d share my plan.  I’m expecting to have at least 5000 Turbine points just counting the Loyalty rewards, but I know I will also get more for the various new deeds that are implemented for Reputation as my 3 mains each have a quite a few factions at kindred rank.  Initially I plan to focus on Captain, Minstrel, and Warden but am sure that my Champ (more about her later) will get some attention too.

I know that the Wardrobe will be a big help to offload some of my storage issues but currently I’m using the Shared Storage as an extension of a couple characters vaults so I will have to end up getting some more Vault space.  I really want to get to a point where I can use shared storage as a replacement for mailing items between toons, but currently it is overflow 😦

On my Captain and Warden I’ll be finishing off Zeal to Rank 10 which is a bit more painful on my Captain but certainly worth it.  They’ll also both be getting a bank space update as their banks are packed and I need the space for crafting.

My Captain and Minstrel are also pretty low on a couple Virtues but mainly Empathy and Innocence so a big chunk of my points will go to max those out.  I will probably look and make sure there aren’t any low hanging traits there that I can grind in game, but Innocence is not one of my favorites to grind out.

The virtues that I’m focusing on I’m doing for two main reasons.  First off, melee defense and armor value are universally important and make a pretty substantial and measurable difference to your characters’ survival.  The second is that in all honesty, they’re a tad painful to grind out as those are mostly quest deeds and even worse they’re the top end of the tiered reward system for quests so I’d have to do 40 some odd quests in a zone to get the virtue.

Hopefully after all that I’ll then have enough leftover points to get at least the riding skill on my Champ such that I can avoid that riding quest 😉  And I might buy a better horse as I’m a bit poor from trying to power through Scholar and Weaponsmith.

After all that, my priorities for my 500 point allowance and whatever else I earn are:

  • More Shared Storage
  • Stat Tomes
  • Larger Wardrobe – I might not need this as I know I have similar items many times across my toons
  • Virtues for my Champ
  • Cosmetic Items
  • Housing Items

    But once I go through and clean up all my vaults and such to take advantage of the Wardrobe I might find that all I really need (or want might be a better word) to get are the stat tomes.

    So far though, the results of the poll show that I”m quite in the minority in my thought process 🙂  But, if you’re thinking like me, go vote and help me prove to myself that I’m not crazy.


    Important Note Regarding Consignment Quests

    While loading the client up this morning, I noticed the following note:

    ALERT: If you currently have active crafting consignment quests, please cancel or complete these quests before server maintenance begins on Tuesday, Sept 7.  These quests (available in Overhill, Silverdeep Mine, Combe Lumber Camp, or Duillond) will no longer be available once Volume III, Book 2 goes live.

    For those of you who haven’t done these (I’ll admit I just started myself) you essentially are paying an NPC to go off and farm materials for you, up to Artisian level.  You travel to the NPC and there will be a few different options for the different skill levels and based on your level you purchase the right one.  Using those items creates a new quest which is essentially a timer and at the end of the timer you return to the NPC and they present you with a key to a chest with the appropriate crafting ingredients.  There isn’t a ton of ingredients but usually a handful of the different types including chances for some of the crit items.  These can be pretty handy for leveling up alts or in augmenting your resource gathering at the lower levels.  They’re also nice for cases where you can’t gather resources for yourself.  Case in point, the Historian includes weapon-smithing but no prospecting, so these quests can help quite a bit.

    Two quick notes on these quests:

    • You can only have one quest active per resource type
    • You can however have multiple resource type quests active (scholar and prospecting for example)

    I know I will be doing these quests on all my toons as often as I can in order to try to jump start my Scholar and Weaponsmith that I’m leveling.  So if you have any of your toons with crafting levels at or below Artisian, you might think about grabbing these before they go away.

    Good Warden End-game Gear

    This will probably have some spill-over for the other classes as well but I wanted to start keeping track of not only some of the better gear options but where some of these things drop.  The forums are a great resource for this kind of information but sometimes it can be hard to find and even lost due to forum wipes.

    The armor sets are a little easier to keep up with and follow, but I do have some spreadsheets for Wardens, Captains, and Minstrels comparing the various sets statistically and visually.

    When it comes to jewelry and cloaks it gets a little bit harder for 2 main reasons.  First off there’s just a lot more variety in these areas with crafted, drops, quest rewards, etc that all can be viable in certain cases.  But probably the tougher part is that many of these are random boss drops that don’t always drop so it can be hard to not only track them but remember where they dropped from.

    I will have a separate page on my blog for this information here, in a similar fashion to how I’m archiving forum posts..

    And for comparisons, if you’d like to see what I’m currently wearing you can look at the MyLOTRO pages for my Warden, Captain, and Minstrel.

    Most of the information below is from the following thread on the forums – Best in Slot Discussion and there’s also some other good stuff over on the Codemasters Forums. In addition there’s another good resource over on the LOTRO Gear site.

    Finally, even though I’ve posted some other items that are coming with the F2P launch, I’ll add those in later in case they tweak them again.

    Please let me know what I’ve missed 🙂








    I’ve Crossed Over to the Dark Side

    No, I’m not playing WoW (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I realized as I’ve had no motivation to play my Runekeeper that I’m really just more into melee classes.  After all the ribbing and trashing I’ve given Champions I figured I should give them a fair shake and actually play the class.  Plus I haven’t been through the starter zones in a while so I figured it would be good to check them out again since all the revamps.  If I had known we were so close to the F2P launch I might have waited until then, but oh well I’m too hooked now to go back.

    Below is a shot of me warming up in Trestlebridge in my new level 18 heavy armor.  As an aside, I don’t remember it looking as good when I leveled my Captain but maybe it just shows that I prefer looking at females.

    Why doesn't the Grocer have Marshmallows?

    I’ve made it pretty much through all the Bree-land content which by far is still my personal favorite starter area.  The zone certainly does flow much better and they’ve eliminated some of the more annoying random out-lying quests.  For instance, tweaking the quest outside of Staddle such that you kill bears for the trader’s item and not neekers is MUCH better.  I always hated that quest as it just didn’t seem to work very well in the general flow, but there were a number of other similar quests that were tweaked as well.  The Barrow Downs stuff seemed to work much better as you didn’t have to run around to find the quest-givers not to mention that you don’t have to run back to Bree to turn-in.  The quest givers in general are all in much better locations and definitely vector MUCH better then they used to.  I found myself wondering at various times when I would go to a particular zone, and sure enough in a few quests I would get sent that way.  Even with the changes, my general approach to Bree really hasn’t changed.  I go through and do every quest there except for the Old Forest – not because I don’t like the area, as it is one of my favorites, it just takes a while to do and overlaps level wise with some of the other areas.  I like the new change to the “go see so and so somewhere far off quests” as they now also offer a return port to where you started from.  This allows you to go to that far off place, grab one quest there as a place-holder such that you know what level range that area is.  I know there are lots of resources out there (like MMorsel’s Level Chart), but having it in your quest log is a pretty good reminder.  The re-working of the quest lines to remove fellowship quests is nice while you’re playing like I am but I’ll admit I’m not sure it is good to have the Great Barrows as the only fellowship quest.

    As of now, I’m about mid-way through 21 and am probably going to do some of the Trestlebridge quests as those are level 21s while the Epic line and Forsaken Inn quests are level 22.  So I probably will be bouncing back and forth but since I’m mapped in Bree (where you need to go to train) I think it won’t be too bad.  I’m probably going to continue to proceed through the Lone Lands and North Downs in this fashion such that I can maximize the experience and not get burnt out in either zone.  I’ll be curious to see how far into the 30s this will get me as I know there are some tough level pockets in there.  However, with the Champ being pretty DPS heavy, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do some of the higher level quests such that I can jump up to a zone even if I’m not quite at the right level.  One thing I’m haven’t done on this toon is crafting as I just wanted to focus on actually playing the class.  But maybe I’ll change my mind and pick up the Armsman profession (that would be the logical thing to do) or possibly a Scholar (but that sounds painful).  Having high-level alts I can pretty easily purchase mats off the AH so it wouldn’t be nearly as painful of a grind, but we shall see.

    As for Champion class, I have to admit I’m really enjoying it.  Granted, in the teens all classes are fun to play but I think the Champ better fits what I enjoy.  I imagine that I’ll be playing my Champ similar to my Warden in that I try to grab as much as I can and pray I can survive 🙂  That certainly does get me into a bit of trouble as Champs are a tad squishy, especially in medium armor, without much in the way of oh-crap buttons.  I expect on-average the Champ will be faster in this methodology then the Warden, but I will have higher repair bills (and more travel time) as I will die often I’m sure.  I have no idea when I died first, but I have quite a few times which hasn’t been a big deal as I usually out level my gear before I need to repair it.  For the most part, I’ve been focusing on trying to build Fervour up before AoE’ing as that way I can get my self-heal off if I need to.  I not using the skill that adds 3 Pips up front as I’m thinking it is better to save that for when I need it, but maybe that’s a bad idea.  Mostly I’ve been running in Fervour stance, but I’m starting to play more in Ardour as it seems to be more survivable for my style.  I’ve mainly been dual-wielding as I’ve always liked the look of that fighting style, plus I do have my Captain if I feel the need to wield a big stick 😉  After hitting 20, I’ve noticed it is a bit easier as I can better pull with the bow as opposed to body pulling everything since you can’t control adds nearly as well that way.  This is my first DPS class I’ve played in an MMO so I’ll be curious to see how I enjoy it, and if my Warden experience is any indication (that was my first tank) I may have opened up a whole new can of alt-aholic worms 🙂

    I wasn’t sure how I’d like the class, so I haven’t yet set up my Strategic Commander for it but once I get that rolling I’m sure I’ll have a much better rotation going and use more of my skills.  I notice I have a hard time using everything on my tool-bar as I really struggle finding things unless I get used to where they are.  For those who are curious, the Strategic Commander is a left-handed mouse that has programmable buttons on it.  I don’t use it for macros (although it can) I just use it as a more convenient way to use skills and movement controls.

    As for gear, I did craft myself a set of Heavy Armor that I could wear when I hit 20, and I have another in my vault for when I hit 22 as I’ve heard (and can appreciate) that gear makes a pretty big difference for a Champ and especially with my kamikaze attitude.  I haven’t been worried about trying to crit on the armor, but I’m sure when I get into my 40s and 50s I will start to care.  Around that same time is when I’ll start out-fitting her with better jewelry and cloaks as I have Guilded SMs in those professions.  I’ll probably start to stock-pile some of the guild items such that I can have some critted sets all ready to go.  I don’t have a weaponsmith (or a woodworker) but I’m not too terribly worried about it quite yet as I’ve been able to find some reasonable things off the AH.  And I do know a few so when I get higher I can bug them for stuff.  I haven’t really decided what weapons I’m going to shoot for long term but I really like axes and I’m thinking a main hand spear with an axe off-hand would be cool, but perhaps sword and axe is the best combo.  I know I do need to pick up a horn and a rune, I just haven’t had a chance to find one on the AH or have someone make me one.

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to bring this character up to the level cap, so you’ll be hearing a bit more about Champions as I progress, and certainly feel free to toss out pointers!  I did pick up some good tips from Merric in this post and discussion but I know I have lots to learn.  And don’t worry, I’m not shelving my other 65s I just haven’t had as much night-time availability for un-interrupted group play and there’s only so many dailies and skirmishes I can do, even though my Captain does still need quite a bit of work…

    Captains Roundtable Live Tonight!

    In case you missed the post from a Casual Stroll to Mordor I will be participating in another roundtable tonight, this time focusing on Captains. If you can join us live at 9pm Eastern (-5GMT) there will be a live chat room where you can participate.  The link for the chat room information is either on CStM’s live page or on the LOTRO Network. Or you can feel free to post questions here or on their thread, or email one of us if you have specific questions or topics you’d like us to cover.  It will be a similar format to the Warden roundtable.

    And if you can’t make it live, we’ll both be posting when it it released.

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    Fun times in Sammuth Gul

    I ended up getting in a late night Sammuth Gul run last night with a couple of friends.  Our group wasn’t quite optimal as we were lacking a traited healer and didn’t have any crowd control.  I think I was more worried about the CC then I was the healing (as you’ll see later on) as the loremasters in there are just downright nasty.  However, we had lots of DPS, and lots of interrupts which made this a fun and exciting run.  I was on my Warden along with a guard, captain, champion, DPS spec’d runekeeper, and a full warrior skald traited minstrel.  The trash really wasn’t too bad as we essentially had 4 off-healers in the group and with all the heavies we had lots of spare morale.  Our Minstrel was able to stay in War-speech for a good deal of the fights and only towards the end or if we got an unlucky pull did he have to drop out.  We had a couple of marathon fights with summoners and unlucky punts onto bone piles, but the ability of our guard to get conjunctions off was key to us being able to move as quickly as we did.

    The only part that really worried me was the Gorothol fight as there’s just SO many mobs and things get very crazy in there.  As the adds started to pile up we were able to just grab everything in the middle with the guard and myself trying to grab all the agro and the champ and runekeeper doing as much AoE damage as possible.  Our minnie was watching out for the loremasters to keep them occupied, trying to keep alive, and trying to toss us the occasional heal.  Although, as the following log will show I did a pretty darn good job of keeping myself alive as all the adds are a Warden’s dream 🙂  After a while I think the guard and I had the agro shared pretty well but my morale bar wasn’t moving much at all as I just kept cycling through our life-taps and conviction.

    CStats 2010-05-26 13-12-57-17

    So over the course of the entire fight, I was healing myself for roughly 100 morale per second 🙂 which surprised me when I looked at it considering I probably wasn’t healing at all for at least the first half or so.  Also, if you look at the breakout of my attacks you’ll see just how much more damage our gambits do versus the builders and has me thinking that I can slow down some and rely more on the masteries to build my gambits to save some power and I won’t sacrifice that much threat or DPS.

    CStats 2010-05-26 13-15-26-03

    But with critted food and power pots, I actually seemed to be in a better spot then some of the others in our group so that made me happy.  I’ve also noticed that since I have a larger morale pool I can actually drop down enough to use Darkness Before Dawn and not get destroyed.

    And finally, we did get a symbol drop, which sadly I did not win, but at least it did go to my friend who hadn’t won one before.

    My week in LOTRO

    I didn’t get too much time in this week but was able to get into some raiding and group fun.  I also did some re-working of my Warden which I’ll get to at the bottom.

    On Wednesday I JUST missed getting into a BG raid, which was just as well as I was already committed to one on Thursday 🙂 so I ended up just messing around in game chatting with folks while waiting to see what was going to happen.  I did end up doing a quick run of DD with one of my kin-mates to finish off her class legendaries, which did have some interesting moments as you’ll see from the pictures below:



    I ended up getting punted into the sticky walls and hanging out there for a bit 🙂  Since we were all well over-leveled it didn’t really matter but I can imagine for an on-level group that could be a bit of a problem.

    Thursday was back into BG for another run at Durchest.  We’re still struggling with him and are trying to figure out what’s going on.  It may be something we’re doing (or not doing) on the tanking side, but that appears to be working properly for the most part until one of us dies.  I’ve looked at a couple of videos including this one showing hard mode but nothing terribly obvious has jumped out at us.  Maybe we’re just missing a combination of small things that when build up cause serious issues.  The other forum post I noticed which I thought was interesting was the following on Durchest’s heal. He has a heal that happens when someone in the raid dies, but he can actually store those up and save them for when he hits 100K.  Rather annoying, but does account for some seemingly random healing.

    But all the struggles in BG have caused me to check out my Warden to make sure she’s at least properly geared out.  I ended up switching out Tolerance as looking at my logs I really don’t take that much tactical damage for Valor which gives me a pretty nice morale boost.  I then switched over to the Lothlorien Stalker’s cloak from the Lothlorien Preserver’s Cloak which cost me a bit of Might in exchange for power and fate.  I’m then going to see if I can get lucky and crit on the Greenwood necklace on my jeweler as that will be another morale booster plus some incoming healing, in exchange for some agility.  I also was checking out the various crafted relics and realize I need to find a supreme master cook who has kindred reputation with the crafting guild to make me the +100 morale rune as mine currently aren’t all that great.  I prefer that over the +20 vitality ones (which for tanks provide the same morale boost) as with my current stats I get real close to the stat cap when fully buffed.  I also need to get some more work in on relic grinding as the ones I’m using could stand to be a bit better.  With all these changes, I should be able to get my morale around 7400 and power at 2350 without buffs and without sacrificing my other stats too much.  Feel free to check out my character page and let me know if you see anything I could swap out.

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    LOTRO Community Projects and News

    So there’s been a number of new (or maybe just new to me) projects and updates from the various community outlets and I wanted to highlight a few of them.

    First up is another video from the EveNArtworkS folks I mentioned in a previous post with their amazing Warden video, this time highlighting one of my favorite classes to group with – the Loremaster! If you haven’t seen either of these, I highly recommend them as they do a great job of mixing the beauty of LOTRO with the music and the uniqueness of each class.

    @Veneration has been pretty active of late not only putting together good forum resources for new players but also in launching and updating the LOTRO Network. This is a community site for sharing all sorts of LOTRO related videos as well as the site for the live stream of the LOTRO Reporter. @Veneration also has been streaming various in-game events like runs through the MIrkwood instance Sammath Gul.  All of the live streaming events are usually announced through twitter so it might be worth following those guys if you want to catch things live.  I usually try to catch the live cast of the LOTRO Reporter as its a good time with the folks in the chat-room.

    I’ve talked numerous times about the tool CStats including recently on my post about my BG raid experience and there’s now a community resource not only for the continuation of the tool but also for sharing your logs.  If you’re interested in looking at others logs or in posting your own head over to the Lord of the Logs site. I’ve posted a couple and will be posting more as I get in a better habit of parsing my fights 🙂

    The folks over at LOTRO Weekly continue to put out high quality stuff, and this is no exception as they’ve released the beta of a LOTRO Crafting Calculator.  This will allow you to see exactly how many materials you will need to craft whatever you’re working on.  There are some tricky things as there’s no way to account for crits or the way Farming works, but it really is a handy resource.  They’re still finishing it off, so it might not have every tier for every profession but I wish something like this was around when I started crafting!

    And last but certainly not least, for all you fellow bloggers and podcasters you might want to check out Lunna’s forums post titled “Advice for new bloggers” as there’s not only good advice in her post but the thread has quite a few good nuggets in it.

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    My last couple of weeks

    So I’ve been pretty quiet of late partly due to a hectic schedule at work but also a bit of a down-time in game as well.  I just have lost a bit of motivation of late but after a blast last week I should be back up and in full gear here soon.

    First off, I did want to comment quickly on the WB acquisition of Turbine as I’ve been back and forth on it quite a bit.  For the most part I don’t think it will make too much of a difference but hopefully it will help Turbine with some resource issues like the Isengard Preview server.  But I think LOTRO will remain relatively unchanged with most of the changes being on the application of Turbine’s systems to other WB games.  I will also be curious to see if we see anything further on LOTRO subscription numbers, although any current statistics will be skewed by the large number of lifetime subscribers that I’m sure Turbine/WB won’t release.

    I’m enjoying all the new My.LOTRO lotteries, including the new one for the rare Symbol drop for crafting 2nd Age Legendaries.  I’m sure many (including all the Euro folks) don’t like this idea but as long as they don’t do it terribly often I’m all for giving players little treats here and there.  I do also appreciate them putting the PvMP armor set barter items in the gift box item list, although I still think they need LOTS more work in this area.  I really want to get these sets but the way the Delving currently works it is quite a challenge to get things done in there.

    So, on to my fun week as I was travelling some and had a good deal of un-interrupted play time from the hotel.  Tuesday night I had my first run through Dar Narburg (DN) on my Warden.  I was a little worried as I was going to be main tanking most of it but I also wasn’t the only “new” person in there so we took it rather slow and steady.  We had a couple of rough spots but did manage to get 2 bosses down and an attempt on the 3rd before folks decided to call it a night.  All in all it was a fun time and I especially enjoyed seeing these fights from a different perspective as I had only been in there on my Captain and Minstrel previously.

    After that I did a pretty smooth SG run and am one run away from finishing off my Mirkwood Radiance set.  I still enjoy that dungeon, but that may just be because I haven’t run it as much as other people have.  Which is probably a good thing as my Minstrel still needs quite a few more runs in there to finish off his set.

    However for me the real fun came on Wednesday night as I made my first steps in the “new” Mirkwood raid BG.  I’ve had lots of chance to go on this raid but timing has never quite worked out so I was excited to get a shot to go this week.  I did feel a bit bad as I realized I was a little under-prepared with things like food and tokens.  Needless to say, I need to get back into better habits if I’m going to continue to raid 🙂  We didn’t get terribly far but we had a fair number of new people and were pretty low on DPS.  We did manage through the Gauntlet pretty well and I quite enjoyed that series of battles.  Essentially it is a timed run through the first area of the raid with numerous kinds of mobs and timed waves.  I was set on read guard basically keeping the Uruk out of the group as not only can I keep him busy but am relatively self-sufficient.  We did have a couple of deaths in there but were able to get through it in our first pass and made it to the first boss Durchest.  We had some poor information for our first run and butchered the agro portion of it, but after that wipe was able to regroup and make a much better attempt.  We had 2 wardens and a guard near him to distribute the damage from his big attack with us working to build threat and tier up the debuff at the same time.  The main problem we ended up having was on this debuff in that at times it would appear to wear off which just created all sorts of timing issues.  And each additional add brings another 10 gloom into the picture just to make things real fun 🙂  We didn’t get him down as we had some time constraints for some and couldn’t find enough replacements.  Certainly I’m still learning the fight, but there’s some mechanic in there that’s just not obvious to me.  It also gets pretty crazy in there as you’re not only trying to build/maintain threat but clear his corruptions and keep your HoTs and defense up.  For those of you interested or looking for information on this raid here are some links that might help:

    And finally, based on some of these runs I’ve really come to realize that I need to get back into some semblance of a kinship search.  I’ve been kinless for quite a while now after leaving my last kinship but I really do enjoy running this kind of content and trying to PUG it can be challenging.  I haven’t quite decided what to do, but there are a few options I’m debating between as there are a couple of kins I’ve found, I have some good friends in both Fat Smokin Hobbits and Strayhold, and there’s been significant purging of some of the people who bugged me most in my previous kinship so I might return there.  But most importantly I think I just need to get my butt in-game more 😉

    Dragon Age Awakenings Review

    So I posted my initial thoughts on launch day but I’ve now had the chance to play through to the end of Awakenings and thought I’d share a more detailed review.  I’m not going to include spoilers, but I will mention a few “mistakes” that I made and suggest some other ways to do it.  So that might be considered a spoiler, but really I look at it as a preferred order to work through the quests.  With that said, I’m dying to talk about things so if anyone wants to talk specifics let me know and I’ll open up a Spoiler/Discussion thread.

    For my first play-through, I used my Dual-wielding Warrior who I ended up re-specing a couple of times as I progressed and unlocked more of the specializations.  The new spec lines are MUCH better then the original ones and they’re all purchasable from the various vendors, so I highly recommend getting them as soon as you can.  As I referenced in my previous post, the Greywardens website has the scoop on all these for all the classes so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check them out ahead of time.  Most of the cool skills/abilities can’t be unlocked right away (2nd skill in each line is a level 22 requirement) so you do have some time to get the books and play around a bit with them.  I did “cheat” a bit and save my game, buy a respec stone, check out all the specs, and if there wasn’t something I liked re-load my game 🙂  I ended up deciding to go with the Spirit Warrior and Guardian specs with the templar spec from the original game.  This allowed me to pretty well fit the role of AoE DPS and yet still survive as a tank when need be.  Guardian spec has some REALLY handy abilities for keeping agro and protecting the party while the Spirit Warrior line just rocks in general 🙂  This combination has crazy defensive bonuses and some really fun AoE skills which make for a great time.   For you LOTRO players, think Champion DPS with Warden survivability in heavy armor 😉  Also, the additional abilities in the Warrior line are incredibly useful and I used them in almost every fight.  I’m looking forward to really checking out the new rogue stuff and I’m saving my mage for last as there are what appear to be some awesome spells.

    Another new aspect of Awakenings is the way Runes work.  You can still find them from mobs and vendors, but they’re also now a craft skill.  I will focus a bit more on this with my next play-through (I didn’t touch it till the end) as you can not only slot runes in weapons, but armor chest-pieces as well.  The crafting part was a bit confusing at first, but essentially it isn’t so much you’re crafting something new but more upgrading the rune to a higher quality.  So like it was in Origins, crafting isn’t crucial to the game but can provide some meaningful buffs if you want them.  In this pass, I didn’t craft any potions at all as I brought a bunch over from Origins, they still drop like candy, and I really didn’t seem to go through all that many of them.  But the poison/herbalism crafting hasn’t changed much at all since Origins.

    The story of Awakenings kicks off right away, and in the pace never slacks off throughout the entire time.  For me, this is where Bioware shines and Awakenings doesn’t disappoint!  I never had a feeling of “when am I going to finish this zone” like I did in a couple areas in Origins.  This might also be because things are shorter, but I also feel like the general pace is just faster and conveys the feeling of desperation much better.  To keep things lively, there’s the same running commentary of your party members as you adventure so make sure you play with the sound on 😉  Also, the decisions to be made in Awakenings are MUCH harder (for me at least) as there are many “no-win” situations you’ll find yourself in.  Which certainly is fueling my desire to play again as I played through the first time being a little safe, I’m curious what else might change if my decisions changed.

    For this play-through, I did crank the difficulty up to Hard (only did normal in Origins) as I did want a bit more of a challenge.  I did find it to be a pretty good mix as my characters all felt MUCH more powerful then they were in Awakenings and the monsters were nastier to boot.  I also use tactics quite a bit and have them set up in a pretty detailed fashion, so for me Hard seemed to be just right as it was challenging but not impossible.  For my final party, I ended up with my warrior, rogue, and 2 mages but this next run-through will be quite a bit different I think.  Mages are still REALLY powerful but Bioware did a good job of really amping up warriors and rogues.  I really didn’t have to worry about healing all that much so I may go with 1 warrior, 2 rogues, and 1 mage but we’ll see how things play out.

    The other real nice advantage of Awakenings is you can TOTALLY customize EVERY character to be exactly how you want them to be.  The respec stones are in unlimited supply and useable by every character.  So even if one of the characters joins your party as 2-handed specialist you can re-spec them to be sword and board, or however fits for how you want to play.  This really allows for a TON of options as now you can have total control and not feel trapped by wasted skills that the other party members sometimes have.  And not that the skills they have initially are bad, but we know we all have our favorites 😉

    One thing about Awakening that I was a little thrown off by was the absurd amount of money in this expansion.  One of the early quests you’ll get requires you to pay 80 Sovereign (similar to 80 gold in LOTRO) – I felt I had brought over lots of money from Origins, but I quickly was down to about 15 Sovereign and freaked out.  However, money quickly became a non-issue and I ended up having bought all sorts of books, respecs, etc and still finished the game with over 240 Sovereign 😉  So, when you see big price tags on items, don’t worry – soon enough you’ll have more money then you can spend.  I’m not really sure why they went this route as it seems quite a bit out of whack from Origins, but oh-well.  One thing the abundance of money does allow for is a VERY quick improvement in the gear of your entire party.  Don’t worry about anything you lost coming over from Origins as it will be VERY easy to get better gear.

    So, now to the not so good.  There are (like all games) some issues you’ll encounter and some buggy/confusing quests.  One I’ll point out (I ran into this and saw it on the forums) is a quest where you have to confront Apostates.  If you decide to confront them, they’re supposed to attack you – however many (including me) have had issues with this.  The solution I had was to re-log and that seemed to fix it, but I’m not sure that’s a sure-fire solution.  There also are some quests that aren’t 100% obvious, but many of them are not bugs just a bit harder to find or poorly written.  Like Origins, Awakening does have different areas you’ll have to adventure in and the main thing I’ll suggest is DON’T save the Wending Wood for last as this will cause problems for you.  Another down-side is since there are no romance options, there’s really no story impact on reputation with your companions.  You can still unlock the skill upgrades (which are nice) but aside from that I don’t really see a downside but I guess it is possible they could leave you as they could in Origins.

    To wrap things up here I really enjoyed Awakenings and will be playing through it at least 2 more times on my rogue and mage.  I ended up finishes at level 32 on my Warrior, although I missed out on quite a few quest turn-ins, with a play-time of roughly 17 hours.  I’m pretty sure I did most of the content, but it is quite possible I missed some follow-on quests.  I feel confident in saying that if you like Origins, you’ll like Awakenings as well.  Now I will admit, I wasn’t real excited about the $40 price tag on it but I know I will get at least 45 hours out of the game, and most likely will play it a 4th time as a new character.  So, for under $1 per hour, that’s not a bad deal at all!  When you combine this story with all the optional twists and turns, total freedom in class and party design, and solid graphics and sound you get an incredibly enjoyable experience!

    Here’s looking forward to Feb. 2011 and the rumored Dragon Age 2 launch.  And in case you bought the electronic version, there’s a slick in the box version that has a card with that date and the Dragon Age logo on it 🙂  So something is coming, we just don’t know for sure what.