There’s a double size Q&A with the developers of LOTRO available on the game’s forums.
In particular the section on the new ‘Epic Battles’ system is worth a read. Scalable battles for solo/duo/trio/full fellowship groups (or in one case 12) seems to offer plenty of opportunities for playing with friends. It appears to be an evolution of the existing skirmish system that was added in the Mirkwood expansion. I’ve finally now played through a number of the story skirmishes from the Mirkwood storyline and they work well as fun challenges without detracting from the quality of the story-telling.
I’m interested by the idea of ‘upscaling’, the system that will allow any character from level ten upward to take part in these Epic Battles. There’s a similar system in Guild Wars 2 for some of the post-launch instances like Fractals of the Mists. It’s a great way of taking the sting out of the age-old barrier to grouping – the leveling curve. We used this system to play with friends who were way behind us leveling and it gave us something easy to ‘jump into’ that we could all play together, without them feeling like we were carrying them. Seeing a similar system in LOTRO is very welcome, but I’ll wait to see the reviews before celebrating – previous attempts at level scaling haven’t always worked so well.
I’ll have to buy the expansion to try this system, but that’s no problem as I have enough Turbine Points saved up to purchase it outright (4295 TP according to the Q&A). My main character is now level 66 so I’m a long way away still from the cap of current 85. The expansion launches on November 18th (according to the official announcement). Normally this would be a disincentive to buy the expansion since I wouldn’t benefit from any new epic ‘book’ quests for months to come, but in this case the new battle system may well make it a worthwhile purchase.