[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 Elves. Mae govannen! Well met!
Who are the Elves?
The Elves have the most complex history of all the races in LOTRO, and in Tolkien’s lore in general. Although we see some Elves in The Hobbit (Mirkwood elves, mostly) and The Lord of the Rings (Legolas, Elrond, Galadriel, and a few others), their story really belongs to The Silmarillion.
Elves are sometimes called the “First-born” or the “Children of Ilúvatar.” This is because they were the first race Ilúvatar created (the Race of Man came later, Dwarves had been fashioned by Aulë, and Hobbits are of unknown origin).
There are many families of Elves throughout Arda and Middle-earth, but we can separate them into two broad categories: those who have been to Valinor, and those who have not. We can also separate them into those who decided to travel West (whether or not they actually made it to the end of the journey), and those who refused from the start. What happened to the Elves, to create this split in their branches? Soon after the Elves were “awakened” on Middle-earth, they were discovered by the Valar and invited to travel with them to Aman, in the West (mainly to keep them safe from Melkor/Morgoth). While many Elves accepted the offer, others decided to stay; and many of those who did set out on the journey stopped along the way. These aspects (decide to travel or not, reach Aman or not) help us tell some Elves apart from the others: the few Elves who have traveled to the West and returned to Middle-earth (such as Glorfindel) are described as being surrounded by (or emanating) an unearthly light. They are described as taller (in Tolkien, stature often means nobility of spirit or heroism), fairer and more powerful than their non-traveling counterparts.
Otherwise, there are several “families” of Elves described throughout the Silmarillion, and their stories are often extremely intricate, especially once they begin interacting with the Race of Man. Describing their history here would take pages, but there are some interesting details that become important in The Lord of the Rings, and thus for LOTRO. One of these is their love for fine craftsmanship, and their talent for creating objects of unfathomable power that become the focus of strife. The Silmarils, the jewels that give name to The Silmarillion, were crafted by Fëanor and became greatly desired by Melkor. The struggle to possess the Silmarils is a central story of the First Age in Tolkien’s lore. And then, of course, we have the Rings of power, which are created during the Second Age. Sauron, a servant of Melkor/Morgoth who has taken over his late master’s ambitions, forges the One Ring to control the ones made by the Elves. Once again, a great struggle begins over these objects, spilling from the Second Age into the Third, and from The Silmarillion into The Lord of the Rings.
The second important detail about the Elves, which we had briefly discussed in our previous post on Men, is that of their immortality. While Elves are certainly subject to death through war or other mishaps (sometimes grief will “kill” and Elf), they are otherwise immortal, and will live on while creatures of other races pass on. Many Elves become weary of this, and at some point might choose to sail West and there “die.” This “death” simply means that they spend some time as spirits in the Halls of Mandos, and are later returned to a body and (usually) sent to Valinor (we see some exceptions, such as the “reborn” Glorfindel). In time, it is said that Elves will join Ilúvatar in a new symphony of creation. What does all this mean? That Elves are inextricably bound to Arda (the planet), and will always be part of the world, either in bodily or spirit form. This is why, as we discussed last time, many Elves consider the mysterious after-death of Men to be “the gift of Ilúvatar.”
One final interesting fact is that the first Orcs were once Elves, tortured and twisted by Melkor for his own evil purposes in what can be seen as a parody of Ilúvatar’s act of creation.
So we can see how Elves can be a very intriguing race for role-players. In the timeframe of The Lord of the Rings, they are slowly vanishing from Middle-earth, heading West and letting the Race of Man take over as stewards of Middle-earth. There’s a sense of melancholy and almost resignation that can provide a lot of material for a character’s backstory.
Playing an Elf 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 Elves 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 Elf Skills and Traits (there’s also a good overview of Elf history towards the bottom of the page). Here’s what you get as an Elf:
- Passive Skills (these exist and are in effect from the moment the character is created)
- Agility of the Woods: Improved Agility
- Fading of the Firstborn: The Elves are passing from Middle-earth, and thus have reduced Fate.
- Sorrow of the Firstborn: Elves are subject to great sorrow and empathy towards the events taking place. Reduced out-of-combat Morale and Morale regeneration.
- Suffer no Illness: As immortal beings, Elves are more resistant to Poison and Disease.
- Slotted Traits (these are earned after certain levels/deeds, and must be slotted the way Virtues and Class Traits are)
- Eldar’s Grace. Elves are graceful and experienced fighters, and have better Parry skills than other races.
- Elf Bow-damage bonus: Increased damage when using a bow.
- Elf One-Handed Sword Damage Bonus: Increased damage with one-handed swords.
- Friend of Man: The Elves see the Race of Man as their successors, and will help them achieve their destiny. Improved Fate (helps balance Fate reduction from Fading of the Firstborn)
- Power of the Eldar: A bonus to fellowship Power.
- Return to Rivendell: A Map back to Rivendell, which allows you a second instant-return if your main Map is set elsewhere.
- Silvan Shadows: Elves can move about unseen when they wish.
- Tactics and Conviction Bonus: increased effect to certain fellowship maneuvers (for Morale and Power restoration).
We can see how much of the character described by Tolkien has been incorporated into these characteristics: Elves are closely bound to nature and expert fighters; at the same time, they’re aware of their fading role in Middle-earth, and are putting much effort in guiding the races that will stay once they have passed on.
Male or Female?
Before you choose your Elf’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 an Elf can be.
As an Elf, we can choose to play a Champion, Guardian, Hunter, Lore-master, Minstrel, Rune-Keeper, or Warden. The classes not available are Burglar and Captain.
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 Elves, this means that you can choose from one of five nationalities:
- Edhellond: Edhellond is a haven on the Bay of Belfalas, a place from which many Elves have sailed West. Once a great settlement, it has diminished and now become a home for ship-builders and a stop for Elves traveling to the Undying Lands.
- Lindon: Lindon is located to the West of Ered Luin, and is the only area to survive the end of Beleriand. It’s now best known for being the location of the Grey Havens.
- Lórien: Ruled by Galadriel and Celeborn, the golden woods of Lórien are full of mystery and speculation for outsiders. Some will say that travelers entering the woods never come back out. While Lórien Elves are wary of outsiders and determined to protect their enchanted land, they know that the time of their passing (for good or ill) is at hand.
- Mirkwood: Once known as Greenwood the Great, the forest of Mirkwood has become a place of danger, and a border-land in the fight against the forces of the Enemy. Sauron was exiled within these woods (in his tower of Dol Guldur), and nothing has been the same ever since.
- Rivendell: Rivendell, or Imladris, is the home of Elrond, and a safe haven for Elves escaping the dark times brought forth by the Enemy. However, Elrond himself knows that the magic of Imladris will not hold out forever.
Thus, origin gives us important details about Elves: 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 Elf. Elves almost always have Sindarin names, and there are very good resources for these online. For example, the Sindarin Name Generator provides many examples and good guidelines for choosing a name. There’s also a comprehensive list of Sindarin names at the Tolkien Gateway. For a quicker approach, there’s an automatic name generator at Slack ’n’ Hash.
Hopefully this will help you choose a cool and meaningful Elvish name; and will hopefully keep me from having to see too many more Legggolllassses and Aaaarwwens running around! ;-)
Cuio mae! Live Well!
I hope this has been a useful introduction to the lore and characteristics of the Elves, both in Tolkien’s works and in Lord of the Rings Online.
Next up in our Welcoming Committee section is an in-depth look at the various classes, starting with Burglars.