[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. And of course, being The Hobbit Collective, we’re starting with the Hobbits!
Who are the Hobbits?
In Tolkien’s works, the Hobbits are present mainly in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There is some mention of them in The Silmarillion, when the War of the Ring is recounted, but otherwise they’re not the protagonists of the First or Second Ages.
Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937, but it wasn’t until 1954-55 that The Lord of the Rings came out. In the interval, he seems to have taken a lot of time to flesh out the history and character of the Hobbits. Certainly, we get a clear sense of hobbit culture in the first book: their love of comfort, their distaste (with some exceptions) for adventure, and their surprising strength and resilience when put to the test. The Hobbit shows us Bilbo Baggins on his journey, “there and back” between the Shire and the Lonely Mountain; buy it also follows his internal odyssey from a timid Hobbit who clings to a comforting routine, to a peerless “burglar,” diplomat, and even warrior.
The Lord of the RIngs, however, gives us much more of the backstory of Hobbit society. In the Prologue, “Concerning Hobbits, and other matters,” we learn how the Shire came to be settled by these “unobtrusive but very ancient people.” While their origins are not explicitly chronicled (“Hobbits had, in fact, lived quietly in Middle-earth for many long years before other folk became even aware of them”), there is a sense of deep connection between Hobbits and the land: “they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth;” “a close friendship with the earth.”
In this second work, the idea of a “hidden strength” that we see in The Hobbit is reinforced. Right at the Prologue, we are told that though Hobbits love to eat, dance, drink, and have a generally merry time, they are nonetheless capable of taking up arms when the times call for it. “They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or kill; and they were, perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces... If any Hobbit stooped for a stone, it was well to get quickly under cover.” This resilience is certainly evident in Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin’s adventures in The Lord of the Rings.
So we can see that Hobbits are quite complex beings: joyful and peaceful when all is well with the world, but fearless and fiercely protective of their way of life when threatened.
How does this translate to LOTRO?
Playing a Hobbit 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 Hobbits 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 Hobbit-lore was adapted by LOTRO.
The LOTRO Lorebook has a nice chart with a detailed description of Hobbit Skills and Traits. Here’s what you get as a Hobbit:
- Passive Skills (these exist and are in effect from the moment the character is created)
- Hobbit-courage: increased resistance to Fear
- Hobbit-toughness: increased vitality
- Rapid Recovery: increased out-of-combat morale regeneration
- Resist Corruption: increased Shadow mitigation
- Small Size: reduced might
- Slotted Traits (these are earned after certain levels/deeds, and must be slotted the way Virtues and Class Traits are)
- Guile and Conviction Bonus: increased effect to certain fellowship maneuvers
- Hobbit Club-Damage Bonus: increased damage with clubs
- Hobbit-resilience: increased Hope for your group (doesn’t stack with other Hope buffs)
- Hobbit-silence: allows you to play dead and lose aggro
- Hobbit-stature: improved Might (helps balance the Small Size passive)
- Hobbit-stealth: allows you to move without being noticed
- Return to Michel Delving: a Map back to the Shire, which allows you a second instant-return if your main Map is set elsewhere
- Stoop for a Stone: a short-distance ranged attack; at higher levels, it has a chance to stun
We can see how much of the character described by Tolkien has been incorporated into these characteristics: small but potentially strong, the use of stones, resilience through Hope and Vitality, and the ability to move about quietly. These are the traits that will help your Hobbit face the numerous dangers that await throughout Middle-earth.
Male or Female?
Before you choose your Hobbit’s class, origin, appearance, and name, you will need to decide whether to play a male or a female Hobbit. 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 when creating your Hobbit 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 Hobbit can be, since not all of them are available.
For a Hobbit, we can choose to play a Burglar, Guardian, Hunter, Minstrel, or Warden. The classes Hobbits cannot play (mainly due to reasons of lore) are Captain, Champion, Lore-master, and Rune-keeper.
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 Hobbits, this means that you can choose from one of three main branches: Harfoot, Stoor, or Fallohide. This is how Tolkien describes each family in his Prologue to The Lord of the RIngs:
Harfoots: “The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides.” “The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times, and long lived in the foothills and the mountains. They moved westward early, and roamed over Eriador as far as Weathertop while the others were still in the Wilderland. They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit, and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes.”
Stoors: “The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larges, and they preferred flat lands and riversides.” “The Stoors lingered long by the banks of the Great River Anduin, and were less shy of Men. They came west after the Harfoots and followed the course of the Loudwater southwards; and there many of them long dwelt between Tharbad and the borders of Dunland before they moved north again.”
Fallohides: “The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands.” “The Fallohides, the least numerous, were a northerly branch. They were more friendly with Elves than the other Hobbits were, and had more skill in language and song than in handicrafts; and of old they preferred hunting to tilling. They crossed the mountains north of Rivendell and came down the River Hoarwell. In Eriador they soon mingled with the other kinds that had preceded them, but being somewhat bolder and more adventurous, they were often found as leaders or chieftains among clans of Harfoots or Stoors.”
Thus, origin gives us important details about Hobbits: the races with whom they most associate; their preferred environment; and their place in Hobbit 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 Hobbit. Male Hobbit names tend to have specific endings (for example, many end in -o, such as Bilbo and Frodo), while female Hobbits are often named after flowers or gemstones (for example, Lobelia, Ruby, or Rose).
If you’re having trouble coming up with a name, there are some resources that can help. Appendix C of The Lord of the Rings contains some Hobbit family trees. There is also a very useful Wikipedia page that lists the names of the Hobbits mentioned in Tolkien’s works. Finally, you can always try the Hobbit Name Generator!
I hope this has been a useful introduction to the lore and characteristics of Hobbits, both in Tolkien’s works and in Lord of the Rings Online. Next up: the Dwarves!