Stout-Axe Dwarf Preview
As Standing Stone Games successfully “got away” with adding High Elves to The Lord of the Rings Online as a playable race in late 2017, then it is only logical that they expect to do exactly the same with Stout-Axe Dwarves this year. Furthermore, as High Elves were introduced with the Mordor expansion, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Stout-Axe Dwarves will similarly be tied to the forthcoming Minas Morgul expansion. Just remember that Mordor came in three varieties and the base edition did not include the High Elf class. So keep an eye out for the various versions of Minas Morgul, when it is announced. But let’s not kid ourselves, core LOTRO players are usually lore enthusiasts and eager to support the game that they love, so I see no reason for this new race to be rejected by the playerbase. Dwarves have their fans, so I’m sure that Stout-Axe Dwarves will be welcomed into the game and find their niche.
Bullroarer test server currently has an early preview of the Stout-Axe Dwarf class. As ever, it’s a beta test so there is scope for change. There are some subtle aesthetic differences between the Stout-Axe and the Longbeards. Their beards are shorter and often braided, along with their hair. The passive skills for the new race also vary from traditional Dwarves. Unyielding Will gives a will, vitality and mitigations boost. Wrought by the Black Lands gives a shadow mitigation buff. This makes sense as the race hails from Mordor. Shadow of the Eye reduces vitality. Doom of Dràsa’s Folk reduces fate. Again the lore justifys this as the Stout-Axes are a subjugated people. And like regular Dwarves there is a One-Handed Axes passive trait. It should also be noted that it looks like SSG have overhauled the character creation screen, as the default models appear to have been updated.
The introductory story for the Stout-Axe Dwarves is set in Mordor circa T.A. 3017. The plot conceit being that Dràsa’s Folk where one of the seven Dwarven Houses. When Sauron sought to take their ring of power, they resisted and were subsequently enslaved and taken to Mordor. After creating your Stout-Axe character you find yourself, labouring in the depth of Barad-dûr. There are rumours that Sauron is to release one of his captives and one of your eager companions wants to use this opportunity to mutiny and escape. After some arbitrary task involving cleaning and working, you find yourself amid an uprising. During the ensuing pandemonium you break out of the Black Fortress. The scene then changes to Ered Luin. Obviously, your character has traversed much of Middle-earth only to encounter the Dourhands. When you recognise that Skorgrím Dourhand and Ivar the Blood-hand are allied to the same evil that you have fled, you seek out the Longbeards at Thorin’s Hall to warn them. It is at this point the story joins the existing storyline for that region.
Once again, SSG have managed to craft an intriguing tale that embellishes the lore without breaking it. Or does it? I seem to recall during the Mordor quest line that Gimli had no specific knowledge of Dwarves hailing from Mordor. Dialogue from the quest “A Land of Ash and Shadow” appear to support this. Legolas: “Gimli has found old tools of dwarf-make in this ruin, and though he will not speak of it, unease has crept into his mind. If ever dwarves dwelt within Mordor, it seems their fate was not a pleasant one and that their line is long ended”. Furthermore, when you complete that quest and find a Stout-Axe body Gimli exclaims "So dwarves still dwell in Mordor, but where have they made their home”. But as the Stout-Axe story has your character introduce themselves to Dwalin, there is a contradiction here. Also the Epic Story has you interact with Gimli on numerous occasions as you level up thus causing further narrative issues.
Now there is a good chance I may have overlooked a story element or am misremembering things. Or perhaps SSG intend to revise the various story elements. They have done so in the past. Remember how “The Assault on Archet” originally featured the Angmarim Commander Éogan arriving in the burning town to claim Amdir. And how this was later changed to feature a more sinister Cargûl and the Blackwold villain Calder Cob. Perhaps they have something similar in mind to address this. But regardless of the potential lore disparities, the new Stout-Axe story is a surprising good addition to the game. I suspect it will appeal more to long term players with a penchant for alts, rather than new players who may want a less lore heavy start to their adventures in LOTRO. It will be interesting to see how SSG polish this new starter experience in the weeks ahead.