Crafting in MMORPGs has always been a side-activity for me. It’s very much part of the experience but as a means to an end, a way to help self-sufficiency, not as the main focus of my gaming time. That’s probably why I’ve always been drawn to crafting professions like alchemy and cooking as they commonly allow you create “buff items” for short-term boosts to your character’s power.
I almost always engage in crafting and resource gathering in any MMO that I play for a substantial length of time. Taking time out of questing and fighting to gather resources or to make a few items is a simple way of keeping some variety within gaming sessions. As I’ve dived back into playing LoTRO this festive season, it is the game’s crafting system that has enhanced my nostalgia of being back in the game.
Unlike other games that I enjoy, notably Everquest 2 and Final Fantasy 14, LoTRO’s crafting is mechanically on the simpler side. It’s not a separate class or levelling system, but as with World of Warcraft and similar games, you raise a skill in one or more professions while crafting or processing gathered resources. One minor difference in LoTRO is that gathering itself gives no skill-ups, you have to process or refine materials to actually rank up prospecting, foraging etc.
The game is somewhat old-school in the overlapping nature of the ‘vocations’ – the system that combines gathering and crafting professions into triads. The system includes in-built overlap and interdependence between vocations; most are not fully self-sufficient, for example Armsmen can refine metal but not process raw timber so they have a gap in the resource-gathering side for some of their crafting recipes. So players are encouraged to either engage with the player economy to meet gaps or to create alts.
For reasons I cannot explain I enjoy engaging with the economy in MMORPGs although not to the point of profit-seeking being my main activity or even a major one. But I will always try and sell unwanted items on any auction house or equivalent system. What I do not like doing is bulk buying mats to speed up crafting or the levelling thereof. That’s too close to “cheating” in my book. I’d rather have ranked-up the gathering skill on one of my characters and to get out there and gather what’s needed. My main character has the Explorer vocation, the most gathering-focused of them all. So if I ever need resources for crafting I can send my champion out to the wilds to do some slaying, mining or whatever.
One other LoTRO-specific aspect to gathering that’s helps to encourage the activity, and reward it, is the deed system. LoTRO is very old-school in some aspects of its character progression despite attempts by Turbine to modernise (or as some players would say WoW-ify) the game. Your character progression is partly tied to achieving certain goals such as exploring every ruin in a zone, using a particular skill X times or killing Y creatures of a given type (the values of X and Y vary greatly but are usually in the 100-400 range).
This deed system, which can be very grindy to concentrate on for any length of time, actually works pretty well as a background activity while pursuing your main goals in game. Naturally you can progress deeds by just questing in a zone, but you can also progress them while gathering resources.
I’ve ended my most recent sessions by spending a half hour or so killing wildlife for hides in Enedwaith and Dunland. It’s easy to find on wikis where to go for concentrations gathering nodes or animals that reward what you are looking for. The bonus is that I can also work on my exploration and slayer deeds at the same time to fractionally round-out my character some more as well as helping to progress his tailoring profession. Doing this keeps me from becoming to obsessed with questing / levelling.