A few weekends ago, I started doing some quests in the Lothlórien region of LOTRO’s Middle-earth, after spending quite a bit of time away from the game. I’m in that high-level slog where I’m eking through late levels in the hopes of catching up with the end-game content, and for a while I was pretty bored. It was all “Kill 10 bears” and “Slay 8 lizards;” not very rewarding, especially after 58 levels of this stuff.
I was just about to quit again when I discovered three quests that caught my eye, for three different reasons.
First, there’s a quest called “Mockery,” which tasks you with finding yet another Orc chieftain and… mocking him to his face, in front of all his men. Sure, it results in just another battle with an Orc, but I found this charming all the same. It has a certain built-in appreciation for the fact that we’re in the midst of high-level content—repetitive content—and that it’s job as entertainment is to surprise us at least a little bit.
It’s almost the same trick as this next quest. “Bring me back some nice, large cuts of boar-meat,” says the quest-giver. Then: “Did I say something amusing? Do they not hunt boars in your lands?” It’s a little meta, right?
When you turn the quest in, the quest-giver says something like, “Ah, at last. I doubt anyone could ever get tired of delicious boar meat—did you just roll your eyes? Did I say something funny?”
At the same time, I discovered a quest called “A Revel Too Far,” which is basically a D&D Skill Challenge: Admonish five drunken revelers without accidentally admonishing three sober revelers. That is, achieve five successes before achieving three failures. It cleverly finds the player something to do in an otherwise peaceful realm where the Elves dwell in lush isolation. (To succeed, you must watch for Elves who misspeak themselves in their overhead dialogue, complaining about “boar-flank snakes” instead of “steaks,” for example.)
These quests are right on the verge of breaking the fourth wall, winking at those of us who roll our eyes at yet another boar-hunting quest. But with a bit of clever quest design — for those few of us who read quest text — they’ve wrung some extra mileage out of boar quests.
How much do I love these boar-hunting gags? I named my LOTRO Kinship the Boars of Evendim, that’s how much. That’s in honor of the quest, “A Striking Absence of Boar,” in which you must search the zone of Evendim for 30 minutes, looking for boars to slay… only to discover that no boars dwell in Evendim. Just do other things within the zone for thirty minutes and you fail in your search — thereby completing the quest. Ladies and gentlemen, that is just good, fun quest design.