Stout-Axe Dwarves and Race Changes Coming to LOTRO
Some interesting news came out of Gen Con 2019, where Standing Stone Games recently held their Dungeons & Dragons Online/The Lord of the Rings Online “meet up”. According to Draculetta who attended the social event, Severlin AKA Rob Ciccolini, Lead Producer for LOTRO stated that Stout-Axe Dwarves were to be added to the game as a new playable race. Furthermore, the ability to change the race of existing characters was also coming to the game. It was later clarified that the race change ability was subject to the existing class restrictions. Hence an existing Hobbit Guardian could become an Elf if the player so desires. But races such as Hobbits and Dwarves are still excluded from certain classes such as Captain or Lore-master. Although this was a very informal setting, the statement has been seen as a formal announcement and SSG have not said anything to the contrary so far.
The ability to change race, once you have created a character, is not anything unusual by genre standards. Many other MMORPG offer such a service but it is certainly a useful facility to have. New players may find that a certain race is not to their liking and the ability to change rather than start from scratch is therefore welcome. High end players may also wish to change race if it gives them a statistical improvement or tactical bonus. And then there will be some players who may simply want to change just to see what difference it makes. However, regardless of how this ability is used, it goes without saying that this is going to be a chargeable premium store item. I wouldn’t be surprised if a “race change token” is included in one or two of the different permutations of the next LOTRO expansion. SSG is a creature of habit so I don’t think its unreasonable to assume that previous business practises established with Mordor, will continue next Minas Morgul themed expansion.
As for the merits of adding Stout-Axe Dwarves to LOTRO, I’m not so sure. I thought the edition of High Elves didn’t really add any major value to the game. If you’re a lore enthusiast, then the distinction between Elves and High Elves may well be of interest but for many players, it really is a case of “same meat, different gravy”. I suspect the same may be so regarding the Stout-Axe Dwarves. They already exist as characters in the game, having been introduced with the Mordor expansion in July 2017. The Dwarves were enslaved by Sauron after they refused to relinquish one of the Seven Rings of Power. They were subsequently liberated by Gimli and have returned to Erebor to try and find their place in Middle-earth. It’s a great story line, but I’m not sure what this playable race can offer that isn’t already available via the regular Dwarves. However, you should never underestimate the Dwarf enthusiast LOTRO player. Perhaps this race may prove popular.
I am curious as to how SSG are going to integrate this new race into the game. At present the Stout-Axes enter the LOTRO storyline at level 105. Their history is unknown outside of Mordor up until this point, so I’m not sure if SSG can cunningly and seamlessly dove tail the Stout-Axes into the existing starter areas of the game. Perhaps they may be a race that starts at level 105 and aren’t intended to be retrofitted into older content. I’m also curious about the availability of this new race as its accessibility is bound to be gated financially. Again I suspect that they may be bundled with the middle tier and top tier of the next expansion. At a later date, they may well be sold in the store for LOTRO points. If this supposition is correct, there may well be an outcry form the LOTRO playerbase. Similar to when High Elves weren’t included in the Standard Edition of Mordor. No doubt a more definitive press release will be forthcoming soon.