[The Welcoming Committee is a category of posts created in the spirit of Meavar’s New Player Relations initiative.]
One of the first things we do as LOTRO players is create a character; and one of the first choices we have to make here is what race our character will be. In this four-part series, we will look at each of the races from the perspectives of lore and gameplay.
Today, we look at the Race of Man.
What is the Race of Man?
In Tolkien’s Middle-earth lore, the Race of Man (also called Man/Woman in LOTRO) is the second branch of the “Children of Ilúvatar.” While the Elves are the “First-born,” Men come along at a later stage in Middle-earth history.
There is very good background material on the Race of Man, both in The Silmarillion and the Appendices to The Lord of the RIngs. One of their distinct characteristics, and what sets them apart from the Elves, is the “Gift of Ilúvatar” : death. When we look at the Elves, we’ll see that Elves, although they can die, are irrevocably tied to Middle-earth, until a new era arrives and they join Illúvatar in creating a new Music. Men, however, are subject to disease, have shorter lifespans, and don’t know what happens to them when they expire (it’s suggested that Hobbits are similar in this respect).
So why is this a “gift”? There’s actually a mutual jealousy of sorts between Elves and Men on the subject of death: while the near-immortal but often weary Elves envy the freedom of Men to leave Middle-earth when they die, Men long for the immortality and knowledge (knowledge of what happens after death) of the Elves. This conflict is, in fact, at the heart of one of the most important events described in The Silmarillion: the fall of Númenor. In the Appendices to The Lord of the RIngs, where we read the story of Aragorn and Arwen, we see that at the end of his (extremely long) life he decides to “go to sleep.” This suggests that at least some Men also have control over when they expire.
The history of the Race of Man is long and complex, and often tied to that of the Elves; there are intermarriages and the existence of half-Elven folk. The union of Beren (Man) and Lúthien (Elf) (see The Silmarillion), for example, further strengthened these ties by leading to the start of an especially long-lived branch of Men: the Númenoreans, of whom Aragorn is a descendant. The first king of Númenor is Elros, brother of Elrond; the brothers were mixed descendants of both Elves and Men, and were given a choice as to how they would live out their lives. This is why we see Elrond referred to as “half-Elven.” in The Lord of the RIngs. The Númenoreans are also called Dúnedain or - in The Lord of the Rings - Rangers.
The Race of Man comprises several groups that settled into different regions of Middle-earth, such as Gondor and Rohan. Their stories are also included in Tolkien’s writings.
So how does all this translate to LOTRO?
Playing a Man/Woman in LOTRO
Passive Skills and Traits
For players who choose race/class combinations according to traits and bonuses, it’s important to know what makes the Race of Man special in gameplay. But even for those of us who don’t take these characteristics into consideration when making a character, it’s interesting to see how the lore was adapted by LOTRO.
The LOTRO Lorebook has a nice chart with a detailed description of Man/Woman Skills and Traits. Here’s what you get as a member of the Race of Man:
- Passive Skills (these exist and are in effect from the moment the character is created)
- Diminishing of Mankind: reduced Will.
- Easily Inspired: Men/Women regenerate Morale more quickly than other races
- Gift of Fate: Improved Fate. While the Elves and Dwarves are passing from Middle-earth, it’s the Race of Man that will dominate the Third and Fourth Ages.
- Strong Men: Increased Strength that leads Men like Bard of Dale or Aragorn to accomplish great feats in battle.
- Slotted Traits (these are earned after certain levels/deeds, and must be slotted the way Virtues and Class Traits are)
- Balance of Man: increased combat proficiency.
- Duty-bound: a bonus to fellowship morale
- Man of the Fourth Age: The Race of Man is ready to fulfill its role in Middle-earth’s future. Increased Will, to help balance the reduces Will from Diminishing of Mankind.
- Man Sword-damage Bonus: Men/Women deal more damage when using a sword
- Fateful Dwarf: improved Fate (helps balance the Lost Dwarf-kingdoms passive)
- Return to Bree: a Map back to Bree (you will appear in the stone circle outside the West Gate), which allows you a second instant-return if your main Map is set elsewhere
- Upper-cut: A short-distance melee attack.
We can see how much of the character described by Tolkien has been incorporated into these characteristics: while the Race of Man lacks the endurance and resilience of other races, its increasing proficiency in warfare and willingness to lead the charge signal that Men/Women will become the leaders of Middle-earth’s future development.
Male or Female?
Before you choose your Man’s/Woman’s class, origin, appearance, and name, you will need to decide whether to play a male or a female avatar. There are absolutely no differences in terms of stats or bonuses: in LOTRO, male and female characters can play the same classes and are affected equally by their race’s Passive Skills and Traits.
Your next choice will be class. We will go more into the various classes in LOTRO in our next Welcoming Committee series, but for now it helps to know what classes a Man/Woman can be. And really, the Race of Man is one of the most fortunate class-wise in LOTRO, because players have eight out of the nine total classes open to them. This includes one class (Captain) not available to anyone else.
Therefore, we can choose to play a Burglar, Captain, Champion, Guardian, Hunter, Lore-master, Minstrel, or Warden. The class not available is the Rune-keeper, which only Dwarves and Elves can play.
One of the interesting aspects of character creation in LOTRO is that you not only get to choose a race, but also an origin within that race. Choosing an origin will affect the appearance of your character (general body shape, plus available ranges of skin, hair, and eye color) and also give you a backstory to work with for roleplaying.
For the Race of Man, this means that you can choose from one of four nationalities:
- Bree-land: Bree-land is a cosmopolitan area, at the crossroads of two major paths. Its main village is Bree-town, which has become the meeting place for merchants, mercenaries, and wanderers of all nationalities and races.
- Dale-lands: Located at the foot of the Lonely Mountain, Dale thrived anew after Bard the Bowman helped slay the dragon Smaug, and subsequently drove the goblins out with help from the Dwarves and Elves. Dale features mainly in The Hobbit. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo orders wondrous toys and trinkets for his birthday party from the skilled crafters of Dale.
- Gondor: The heirs of Elendil ruled Gondor until their deaths; since then, the kingdom has been managed by a Steward, and become a barrier trying to hold back the evil marching out from Mordor.
- Rohan: The inhabitants of Rohan are highly skilled warriors who possess a special skill and empathy with horses. These Horse-Lords have their capital at Edoras, where King Théoden sits in the golden hall of Meduseld.
Thus, origin gives us important details about Men/Women: where they originate; their ties to other famous figures; and their place in Middle-earth history. There are no advantages or disadvantages to choosing one branch over another; it’s simply a matter of personal preference.
The character creation screen gives us some good tips for naming our Man/Woman. Characters from Dale and Rohan generally have Norse or Anglo-Saxon sounding names (the “eo” element that is present in many of these names actually comes from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word for “horse”). Gondorians, however, tend to have Sindarin names, while Bree-landers prefer simple English names (Bill Ferny, for example). Some examples of Anglo-Saxon names can be found at Behind the Name; this website also has pages for Norse and Scandinavian names
“Tomorrow we will make a song-worthy end...”*
I hope this has been a useful introduction to the lore and characteristics of the Race of Man, both in Tolkien’s works and in Lord of the Rings Online. Next up: the Elves!
*From Théoden’s speech to Aragorn at Helm’s Deep