Saturday, June 29, 2019

Dreadweaver's Bane - A LOTRO Fan Fiction

Greetings, readers of Material Middle-earth! I wanted to try something different today. Rather than talk about the outfit itself, I've decided to share a story inspired by both my appearance and the location. One Mirkwood quest in particular, A Dangerous Lair, was a major influence in this literary experiment. And I also pulled some tidbits from others for atmosphere. It may not exactly be LOTR-appropriate, but it feels right for LOTRO.

I'm about ten years out of practice with story writing and I know it's not perfect, but I hope it's enjoyable!

     Lanael looked above her, rubbing her eyes, and fixed her gaze upon the ceiling. She heard the skittering and scratching as something moved across the roof. There were moments when she was unable to pinpoint the exact source, the sounds nearly drowning out the crackling coming from the hearth. At least one foul creature had climbed upon the Haunted Inn's roof and for what purpose, she had no idea.
     "The woods are rife with poisonous spiders," spoke the tall, grey-clad Malledhrim Sentry pacing around the Haunted Inn's common room. "At night, they are especially active, lurking in the darkness of the trees. Sometimes, they crawl along the rooftop, hoping to catch the guards unaware. They are a threat, truly, to our efforts here."
     "So that's what that is. Have you located their nest?" she asked boldly, before yawning. The wooden chair she'd tried sleeping in hadn't been very comfortable. It was unbalanced and wobbled every time she'd shift positions.
     "The Dreadweaver's Lair is to the southwest, a short distance past the road leading to Ost Galadh."
     "Why haven't you destroyed the nest?" Lanael crankily pressed, irritated by the lack of sleep. "Surely, the small host you've gathered here can remove that threat."
     The sentry stopped pacing, growing quiet. He looked around, noticing a party of adventurers conversing over a small meal in the adjacent room. He slowly approached the inquisitive elf, the tension rising in his lowered voice, his fist clenched. "We are not as well off as it seems. Our numbers have grown smaller. Elves and orcs alike have been taken by the spiders plaguing us from the south. Scouts that have been sent north to Dannenglor haven't returned. Shades and other foul beings attack from Audaghaim, across the eastern bridge. There is no one to spare to destroy the nest."
     Lanael paused, finding it difficult to speak. The sting of his words had caught her off guard. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize..." she whispered as she looked down, unable to look in his eyes.
     He guided her to a wooden bench across from the roaring hearth and sat down beside her. "My apologizes. It wasn't my intent to speak so harshly. You didn't know. You were never meant to come here. One of our scouts saw you bound for Ost Galadh as the sun was setting and guided you here for your own safety. The woods are especially dangerous after dusk, as you have just learned."
     As they sat there silently and stared at the slowly diminishing flames, the scratching sounds overhead faded. The crackling of the fire and soft, indistinguishable voices from the adjoining room filled the inn once more. Slowly realizing the relative silence, they sighed collectively.
    "If you'll excuse me, I must check on my injured companions in the cellar. Another was poisoned by a spider the night before last," said the sentry as he rose from the bench. He began to walk away, stopped mid stride, and he turned around briefly. "And, if I may be so bold, I'd suggest getting some rest, now that the inn is quiet once more. You'll need to be alert when you travel in the morning. Sleep well."

     After nodding a silent thank you, accompanied by a kind smile, Lanael returned her gaze to the hearth and stared deeply into the flames. She rested her chin on her folded hands, elbows pressing into her lap. Sleep would be impossible now that she was wide awake. Her thoughts lingered upon the soldier's words, his tale of various woes that had befallen those stationed here. She wondered how long the Malledhrim had been here. She wondered what else was roaming the malicious mists of these forsaken woods. She felt the anger and sorrow build, mixing into an unsettling blend of frustration. Something had to be done...but what? Sitting there was doing absolutely nothing!
     Lanael, irritated, quickly rose from her seatAs she stood, her rune-satchel was torn from her hip, caught by a large splinter. A small round stone fell from it and rolled beneath the bench into a pile of dust and mess of cobwebs. She knelt down, carefully freed her satchel and reattached it. Reaching beneath the bench, she retrieved the orb from the floor. Wiping away the sticky filth, she cradled the stone in her hand and traced the inscribed Cirth runes with a free finger. They were runes for fire and cleansing. Fire and cleansing. Glancing at the cobwebs still stuck to her hand, whatever anger remained transformed into a sense of purpose and determination.
     Swiftly Lanael made her way towards the inn's entrance. As she approached the exit, she noticed a cluster of barrels, most of them broken, pushed against the stone wall. Atop one was a sole lantern, covered in a thin layer of dust. She brushed it off with her free hand, just enough to see through the glass, and opened the slightly rusted door. Still clutching the rune-stone in her other hand, she closed her eyes and concentrated. The stone began to glow a bright red-orange. Lanael lifted her empty hand, waved it in small, controlled motions, and whispered words of power. The half-melted candle within brightly flared to life.
     "Those spiders will not survive the night," she spoke quietly. Too quietly. "And if they do, their lair will be reduced to ash, and their numbers scattered." She secured the tiny glass door, put her rune-stone away, took the lantern in hand, and exited the inn.

     Almost immediately, the cold and damp night air made her shiver. The moon, partially obscured by thin passing clouds, hung high above her, it's pale light barely illuminated her surroundings. An eerie mist blanketed the road, following the road south as it descended into the darkness and vanished. The mirkeaves were silent, save for the two murmuring guards near the eastern bridge that led to Audaghaim. Too busy observing the shades aimlessly wandering the crumbling village, they were oblivious to her presence.
     Inhaling deeply, Lanael walked southward and traveled down the cobbled stone road that weaved between the rotted wooden shells of abandoned home. Periodically, she'd look up into the canopy of  gnarled trees, raising her lantern towards them, watching for any suspicious movement. Aas the forest grew thicker, the road turned from stone to dirt. Tattered strands of sticky webbing hung from branches, moving slightly in the weak breeze. The darkness grew, and with it, so did the sounds of chittering and scratching.
     "There you are," she said whispered as her keen elf eyes caught shadows moving high above her. She followed them, away from the path, tiptoeing through dead, dried leaves and avoided stepping on brittle twigs likely to give her position away. It wasn't long before she stood on the edge of a precipice, looking into a heavily webbed hollow. The cocooned husks of orcs hung from barren trees.
     As she pondered her next course of action, the ground beneath her shifted. Stones popped out from the rock face beneath her and the soil cracked. Lanael wasn't able to move soon enough and she found herself being swept below in an earthen cascade, sliding and tumbling into the pit below. It took her a few moments to regain her senses, her body sore from the fall. And as she rose, she noticed that her lantern had shattered. The candle that kept the darkness at bay laid there, covered in dirt and webbing, surrounded by glass shards.
    Without warning, a gigantic, barbed spider rapidly descended on a singular strand, hissing and thrashing its venomous fangs as it landed. Lanael took a step back, hastily reaching into her satchel and drawing her rune-stone. As the spider took its first menacing steps towards her, she tightly clutched her glowing stone. She raised her empty hand, palm stretched outward, and released a fireball. Nimbly, the spider evaded it and the leafy ground erupted in flames. It kept its distance from the raging fire rapidly spreading across the dry forest floor. As the light grew brighter, she caught more movement in her peripheral vision. More spiders emerged, gnashing their jaws, adding to the cacophony of terrible sounds. The one spider already before her charged forward, attempting to snare her while their ranks grew. Once again, she flung forth a fireball, brighter than the one before and directly struck her assailant mid-charge. It cried out in anguish, writhing on the ground, immolated, before curling into a lifeless, upturned mass.
     Nothing else dared attack her. However, they formed a ring at the edges of the hollow, hissing, leaving an opening directly across from Lanael. It wasn't a means of escape. Something was coming. At first, she couldn't make it out, but she could hear the shifting of leaves. Six eyes glowed in the distance, getting brighter as it got closer to the flames. One gangly leg appeared. A second. Four fangs next. Then came the black bulbous body of a spider with proportions beyond expectation that made the rest of them seem inconsequential. It was her. The queen of the Dreadweaver's Lair. It lurched forward, taunting her as it drummed the ground with its forelegs.
     Drawing upon her reservoir of strength once more, Lanael began to focus. Her rune-stone rose in the air before her. Runes formed at her fingertips as she moved them through the night air, weaving the flames that would raze the nest before dawn's first light.

Head: Rune-maker's Hat (Sienna, bartered from the Classic skirm camp vendor under Barad Guldur - Level 65 Light)
Shoulders: Rivetted Camail of Mordor's Bane (Orange, bartered from the High-enchanter in Mordor)
Back: Wood-wanderer's Cloak (Ashenslades green, LOTRO Store)**
Chest: Rune-maker's Robe (Ashenslades green, bartered from the Classic skirm camp vendor under Barad Guldur - Level 65 Light)**
Feet: Tawarwaith Shoes of the Enlightened (Ashenslades green, T6 Tailor Malledhrim reputation recipe)**

Main-hand (implement): Lantern (bartered from the Fall Festival)
Main-hand: Rune-keeper's Stone of the Third Age, level 61
Satchel: Rune-keeper's Rune-satchel of the Third Age, level 90 (invisible skin crafted by any Relic-master)

**If using ashenslades green isn't an option, olive, though noticeably lighter, works just as well.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Unfinished Appearances & Outfitting Reflections

Every now and then, I've made an outfit that leaves me with mixed feelings. I've let those sit for a few weeks then revisit them and reassess the work I've done. Sometimes they've made it to this blog. Sometimes they haven't. Sometimes an outfit's sat there indefinitely because something feels off, but has the potential to be finished without any indication as to how. And that would be this outfit. The Watchman of the Northern Lands, which was posted last month, was the redesigned product. I still have this original version saved to an outfit slot, still not quite sure what to do with it, but my hopes of completing it have dwindled. Since Material Middle-earth is a blog for outfit ideas, I've uploaded it should someone want to make something out of it.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Ancient Master

My absolute favorite staff has always been the Staff of Storied Past. Although recently introduced through the LOTRO Store, this staff has been in the game's coding for years. Originally, it was called the Lore-master's Staff of the First Age (level 58). In my decade of playing LOTRO, I've never seen this staff drop. Nor have I seen any other First Age weaponry from level 53-58 drop. It's still a mystery, but I've never known the reason why these beautiful weapons weren't introduced into the loot pools. Luckily, the developers at SSG introduced some of those skins to the LOTRO Store as limited time items, appearing for approximately one week every couple of months. I purchased this staff on its initial release day.

Finally, I had the chance to make an outfit revolving around it. It was an interesting approach too!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Watchman of the Northern Lands

Stationed at the stone fortress of Gondamon, this solitary dwarf patrols the northern region of Ered Luin. He does his best to keep the roads clear of danger. Between the port of Kheledûl to the east and the stronghold of Sarnúr to the west, both controlled by the rogue Dourhand clan, and the encroaching goblins of Rath Teraig to the south, his duties also require constant vigilance. That, however, is not his only task. He also guides adventurers and travelers following the roads between the dwarven settlement of Thorin's Hall and the elven port town of Celondim. Every mile of the route is committed to memory. He's willing to share with them a lifetime of survival skills to ensure their safe passage, should they need to leave the path and venture through the cold wilderness.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Thrang's Weapon Skins Collection

The Thrang's Armory Box was introduced during Mordor expansion and contained a set--though not a complete one--of weapons with special visual effects. When these are used as cosmetic overlays, a trail of embers flows from the glowing areas while moving. Although some don't glow as much as others, the trail density is consistent. Some classes have the ability to equip at least two different skins and each displays its own ember trail.

With the exception of the two-handed sword, Thrang's Sword, these weapons can be obtained from any Keeper of Mystery in Mordor. Spend 1000 Figments of Splendor for a Thrang's Armory Box, which allows you to select one skin.

Unfortunately, there are no rune-stones, javelins, or crossbows in this set.

Thrangs's Mace

Thrang's One-handed Axe

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Master of Raven-lore & Happy Anniversary

Since days seldom remembered, the Dwarves of Erebor have shared a special friendship with an ancient, wise, and unique breed of ravens. These ravens resided at the aptly named guardhouse of Ravenhill, built upon the Lonely Mountain's southwestern ridge, approximately five hours journey from the Mountain's gate. They also had the ability to speak Westron, the common language of Middle-earth. In chapter fifteen of The Hobbit, it's vaguely inferred by Balin that the dwarves also have the ability to understand raven-speech. However, it's never explicitly stated if they've retained that ability, lost it, or if the dwarves have been away for so long that they're simply out of practice. The only named person to have remained in proximity of Ravenhill was Dís, Thorin's younger sister and Tolkien's only female-identified dwarf, who functioned as caretaker.

Not much is specifically known about the ravens of Ravenhill. During the days of King Thrór, here resided the well-known raven Carc and his unnamed wife, a brief tale recounted by Thorin after Smaug's death. Having been away from The Lonely Mountain for nearly 170 years, he learns that Carc has died and the ravens are now lead by his son, Roäc. Roäc, as his father before him, functioned as a messenger. To Thorin and his company, he delivered glad tidings and portents of death. And at Thorin's behest, he spread word to Dáin II of the Iron Hills. And after that, as far as I've been able to tell, the ravens remain unmentioned in the lore.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Halberd Skins Collection, Part 2

Halberds, weapons exclusive to the Captain class, were never a major priority for me. Only one of my Captains used them, and that alt of mine was retired after the trait trees released. As such, the first part of this collection wasn't very extensive. Now that I've had time since last year, I've tracked down multiple skins through recipes. This should make this weapon category feel fuller.

Unfortunately, I've decided to no longer ask for alternative ways to obtain skins listed here. I've grown tired of repeating that this was my personal collection and not a complete collection. Thank you to those that have helped list alternative names. Those contributions have been greatly appreciated! However, a handful of players haven't been so helpful and ignored the request to not list skins that I haven't included here, stated on the main CWP page. I've been very tolerant of comments, replies, and private messages that have no so politely informed me or argued with me over what I've missed. In the almost seven years Material Middle-earth has been around, I've never had to moderate comments to this degree. Without going into specific examples, I've decided to close comments on all of the CWP entries for the forseeable future. I may enable them again once I've completed my work.

Defender's Halberd - Crafted from the recipe of the same name

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Barbed Executioner

The Barbed Executioner is one of my more interesting outfits. I figured I'd try pairing two distinctly different sets of armor skins and see what I could create. The "Mordor's Bane" and "Mordor's Vanguard" gear from the High-enchanter seldom gets used outside their own sets. Most of those pieces were darkly colored, covered in scales, rivets, shingled plates, and spikes, creating a unique aesthetic. And then there's the dwarven-themed cosmetics from U23, covered in celtic knot-like patterns and intricately weaved leather interlaced with detailed and highly decorated steel. It was a challenge attempting to mesh these styles together and, even though it's not the most realistic appearance, I was satisfied with the result.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Bow-master of the Dark Wood

Here's a blast from the past. I haven't seen this outfit since early 2012. While cleaning out my portable hard drive's picture folders, I stumbled upon this. I would have loved to upload the picture, but it's so small, grainy, and had such poor lighting that it wasn't worth it. Back then, I played LOTRO on a non-gaming college laptop, which seldom handled more than very low graphics. As a special treat, I've recreated it for this "vintage" entry with a period-appropriate Mirkwood background! It took a few days to determine what pieces and colors I'd actually used. And I've even enhanced it with cosmetic weapons.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Bare-chested Bard

It all started in September of 2016 when Gamutdorok, of Crickhollow's amazing Second Breakfast kinship, started the LOTRO hashtag #NakeDwarfGo on Twitter. (Of course, it's safe. I wouldn't intentionally link questionable content on this family-friendly blog!) What was a completely innocuous joke then has transformed into a cheerful, hilarious, and addictive subculture showcasing any and every dwarf encountered using the Bare-chested cosmetic. It's filled with dwarves parading in hot pants, dwarven bands singing and strumming shirtless, dwarves proudly displaying carefully sculpted beards, dwarves that...well, the list is endless. Frankly, I'm surprised nobody started the racy "Dwarves of Middle-earth" calendar, which would have better funded the expedition into Ered Mithrin! (If anyone asks, you didn't hear that from me!)

I couldn't resist and joined the fun, adding my own to the Twitter collection!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Staff Skins Collection, Part 3

Like the previous CWP entry with swords, this collection was created to flesh out the staves a bit more. A glaring number of crafted one were missing from the first two installments.

As usual, if there were other ways of obtaining any of the skins below, please let me know in the comments.

 Ash Staff - Crafted from the recipe of the same name

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Feathered Fury

Approximately two weeks ago, LOTRO Family of Twitter hosted another delightful themed screenshot contest. This particular one revolved around cosmetic pets--not to be confused with Lore-master combat pets--earned from various festivals, deeds, and side quests. Luckily, I had a screenshot on hand that fit the criteria and submitted it, which you can either see here or before the outfit breakdown below. I've always loved the various vistas in LOTRO, taking screenshots at every opportunity. Although most of my landscape screenshots are just that, I've occasionally used my character and an emote to enhance the atmosphere. In this case, it included a raven earned from the Anniversary Festivals's Tome of the Raven, which was a royal pain to position properly.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Cosmetic Implements Collection

Ah, one-handed implements. These are probably the most unique category of weapons in the game. Some are purely cosmetic. Others, like the aptly named Slapper Fish, have incredibly low combat damage. These are also all one-handed, which means they can be overlaid on any one-handed weapon except for spears. I don't know exactly why, but I expect it has to do with both the animations and how spears are held. Lore-masters will find the same problem with their staves, despite eventually learning how to dual wield. Two-handed weapons users will also find they can't use these either.

If you're interested in these, they make for home hilarious outfits. Imagine dual-wielding Breads of the Third Age or the Giant Flower! And, as usual, if there's another way of obtaining anything you see here, let me know in the comments.

Bane of Warm Butter - Bartered from Bert Bartleby in Michel Delving

Basket of Apples - Bartered from the Fall Festival

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Iron Garrison Miner

It's been a long time since I've entertained role playing on this blog. I used to write stories--short blurbs may be more accurate--for my characters that matched the outfit and images contained within a given entry. It's been years, probably five or six, since I last did that. I almost wrote a brief story, but I decided to let the images themselves tell the tale of an often exhausted dwarven miner, hard at work, deep within the darkness of Moria.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sword Skins Collection, Part 3

It's been some time since I started Cosmetics Weapon Project section. Originally, this was meant to be a collection of the weapons I'd owned or had tucked away in storage. By the time I'd finished the main categories, this project evolved to contain crafted weapons (even though I'd never used them), rare quest weapons, and hidden, unused skins (some of which have been released through the LOTRO Store).

Swords had been one of the first categories uploaded, which meant it didn't get the same amount of time, effort, and thoroughness as the others. This post is meant to correct that oversight, further fleshing out swords. There are some skins feel like they should be here, especially among the LIs, but have already been featured in the first two installments.

As usual, if there's another way of obtaining one of the skins listed below, please let me know in the comments.

 Ancient Steel Sword - Crafted from the recipe of the same name

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Verdant Grace

Quite often I repurpose slotted or old outfits. A splash of a different color, the exchange of at least one piece...that's all it's taken to transform an old character appearances into something new, fresh, and exciting. I've always been surprised how a subtle change in color, either in tint, shade, or tone, has altered the concept and emotion of an outfit. For those that have regularly visited Material Middle-earth, this particular clothing combination should look familiar. It's mostly a recolor of Silvan Elegance, which was posted in February 2018, almost a year from today.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

LOTRO Store Weapon Skins Collection

I don't know exactly what sparked it. It was either me finding some unique and unused Legendary Items in LOTRO's coding last year or the forums thread wanting some new addition to the LOTRO Store (also from last year), but the developers saw fit to finally introduce these to the game. Almost all of these skins are exclusive to the Store, costing 395 LP apiece. If there's an in-game way of obtaining something here, I'll have made a note below.

Three different sets have been released, the "Soaring Depths," the "Khazad-dûm Vaults," and the "Storied Past" sets. I must point out that these skins have only appeared in the store for limited periods of time, and even then, only one set at a time. Watch the LOTRO Store (or Twitter or the client launcher), as I have, for their next appearance. I'd say once every month or two we've been graced by their presence.

I've collected only certain ones, as I don't have infinite funds to pour into LOTRO's coffers, and I haven't regretted those purchases either!

And, oh yes, I've moved these skins from the other CWP entries to here.

UPDATE: As of 5/9/19, these weapon skins have been made permanently available in the Store!

Soaring Axe of the Depths

Axe of the Khazad-dûm Vaults

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Ward of the Mountains

As this was my second dwarf outfit, I thought I'd just dive in, not put too much thought into what pieces I would use, and follow my fashionable instincts. What resulted was a heavily armored dwarf  that was also armed to the teeth (lots of pointy weapons, too). The outfit itself does feel a bit cumbersome, but it works. The only thing I'm not particularly fond of is the hauberk-style heavy chest piece, the Reinforced Chestplate of the Adventurer. I'm not quite sure if it was that only the top half was plated or how flat and curveless it appears when donned by a stocky dwarf. Then again, I've been getting used to dwarven body structure these past couple months and the U23 skins have made it easier.

Friday, January 11, 2019

2018 Yule Outfit Contest Winners

After seventy two submissions, nearly three weeks, a fair voting process, and some discussion, the outfit blogs of Material Middle-earth, Cosmetic LOTRO, and Wandering Around Arda are proud to finally present the winners of the 2018 Yule Outfit Contest!

As a reminder, each entry was carefully examined against the following criteria:

  • Representative of the Yule spirit or Wintry ambiance.
  • Originality of the overall design.
  • Integration of the various pieces used.
  • Blending of dye colors.
  • Overall impression and quality of the screenshot.

Although it wasn't easy, judging these submissions was truly an honor. All of the outfits we received were beautiful. Lots of care, passion, and enthusiasm went into each and every one. Just from effort alone, I wish it were possible to award everybody a prize. Unfortunately, we could only pick three winners. Before I make the official announcement, I invite everyone to view all of our entries via this Flickr album. Player names are attached to each image.

Without further ado, congratulations to our three fashionistas below!


First Place: 1550 LOTRO Points

Holfi of Laurelin

Head: Wintry Yule Cap (Crimson, random reward from the Sack of Presents during the Yule Festival)
Shoulders: Fur Mantle (Default, Yule Festival barter reward)
Back: Sage's Pack (White, LOTRO Store)
Chest: Ale Association Robe (Crimson, Ale Association reputation barter reward)
Hands: Extravagant Festival Gloves (Red, reward from Gain and Glory: Assist the Rich)
Feet: Ceremonial Ajokoira Shoes (Red, Lossoth Tailor reputation recipe)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Tempered and Sagacious

Material Middle-earth returns this week with another PvMP-centric appearance. Unlike December's Garrison Commander outfit, this one can be acquired, in full, without entering the Moors, but requires mithril coins to purchase. Normally, I don't post outfits that rely so heavily on real money (or ungodly luck from Hobbit Presents), but this something I love sporting on my Lore-master. And it feeds my shameless and often unsatiated love for the color purple.

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