Playing music and roleplaying doesn’t always match in LOTRO.
Music is everywhere
The LOTRO music system is one of the biggest draws of the game for many. This is how it was for me too back in the day, when I first took up the lute. Imagine, being able to play songs in-game? Playing in bands with others? Writing song lyrics and performing them? Being creative, having fun? Grand!
Over the last years, though, I have gradually developed a love/hate relationship with the LOTRO music system. Or perhaps not so much the system as the way the music community has developed.
Much of this is related to the sheer amount of music that is around today. Playing music was once a niche area in LOTRO, and concerts and performances added dramatically to the game because there were so few of them. Converting ABC files (or writing your own) and preparing to play synced music with others took a lot of effort, because the tool support was lacking. You had to put a lot of time into it, and only the most dedicated players were willing to do this. You couldn’t help but be impressed when you saw bands like The Shades perform one of their massive annual productions, because you knew, you just knew they had spent weeks getting ready for it.
Now, though? Converting music takes a few minutes, by using converters like Maestro or Fireferns. Preparing for synced play takes seconds, through plugins like SongbookBB. Everyone can do it. Everyone does it. They still spend a lot of time on it, because we have moved from preparation to performances. Many bands routinely perform weekly concerts. Mega-events with 20-40 bands, lasting whole weekends, pop up monthly (they keep growing in size and lenght too). Bands move from server to server to perform. Music is everywhere. There is no escaping it.
This is grand if music is your LOTRO endgame. Anytime you log in, you can go somewhere to dance and listen. There is always a venue where you can perform.
It is, however, uniformly a bad development for LOTRO roleplayers.
Roleplaying is nowhere
I have for years now run roleplaying events in LOTRO, on the Laurelin server. These are mostly public events, in the sense that we invite everyone to come along (at least if they play hobbit characters). My aim has always been to have inclusive events that sticks somewhat close to Tolkien’s lore, without overdoing it. People should be able to immerse themselves in the storytelling, but also have fun and socialize with others. RP newcomers and veterans alike are welcome.
This has usually gone very well, not least because Laurelin has a special RP policy for its players. Most notably, player names should be in line with Tolkien’s lore, and the /say channel is In-Character (IC). It cannot be stressed enough how much this has helped for roleplay immersion. Escaping chat about modern-day topics or that someone brought you coffee in real-life? Staying close to the in-game lore? Heaven.
For the longest time, people respected this policy, and the few offenses I saw against it was not really a problem. Lately, though, the RP policy is more or less routinely pushed aside. Player names are increasingly lore-breaky. There is more Out-Of-Character (OOC) chat in /say. Less players behave as though they are characters in Middle-Earth. They just use their in-game avatars for modern-day socializing and chat.
I guess some now will point toward the server consolidation process the last year as an explanation for this. When there are less LOTRO servers around, the ratio of roleplayers on Laurelin will be less than before. No wonder I have seen this development the last year, right?
No, not really. This started years ago. And it wasn’t the players looking for a new server home who were behind it.
It was the musicians.
One kind of event to rule them all
Not because they wanted to disrupt things for roleplayers, no no. However, the music community in LOTRO has developed a particular style of gameplay which is in many ways incompatible with immersive LOTRO roleplaying and storytelling. This includes:
- Using real-world song lyrics, talking about the real-world bands performing the songs, etc.
- Emote-spamming (dancing, slapping, bowing every 0.5 seconds to emulate headbanging, etc).
- Multiboxing for band playing, with one player controlling many characters by running multiple game clients. People can multibox all they want, of course. However, for a RP event, it gets somewhat creepy when half the crowd just stands there staring at you, not interacting with others.
- Increasingly bizarre outfits/use of cosmetic items/pets in the audience.
- Lots of comments on “hey, I saw you on server XX last week”, “I am player YY from server ZZ”.
- Roaring, shouting, yelling, and generally behaving as wild and loud as possible.
In itself, this is not a “wrong” way to play the game. People obviously have fun doing this, it is social and it is easy to include others. In some cases, I can certainly participate in such things myself. Most servers don’t have a RP ruleset either.
The problem arises when this behaviour is brought into traditional roleplaying venues. It simply doesn’t mix well with events and communities aiming for immersion in Tolkien’s world. This is the challenge we have had on Laurelin the last few years, when more musicians hop between servers, without keeping local practices or policies in mind. And it is certainly felt at Green Dragon Friday as well.
Where everyhobbit knows your name
Green Dragon Friday (GDF) is probably the longest-running regular player event in LOTRO. It has been around for close to eight years, and it has always been a hobbit roleplaying event. Every Friday night, hobbits can come to the inn in Bywater to meet other hobbit roleplayers, talk about the latest hobbit news or share a story or riddle.
Music has always been an important part of the event. Back in the day, though, it was more small-scale and intimate (solo songs) compared to the 8-member behemoth band performances we sometimes see today. Often, the latter demand so much coordination (not to mention setting up multiboxing alts) that they don’t allow for neither hobbit lyrics nor audience interaction from the band. Then it gets too performance-oriented for me (although, I have certainly done my part in pushing large performances too over the years). Add in some of the noisier aspects from the music events as discussed above, and GDF fast moves away from the hobbit roleplaying it was meant to enable. Everyone wants to play ABC files, but no-one volunteers stories and poems or roleplays around the recent news. Then it ends up like “just another music event”.
In the Grand Order, this has been cause for some worry for a long time, because we see that the roleplaying routinely gets pushed aside because of player music. Traditional roleplayers stop coming to the event or are around much less than before.
The result is that we will look for ways to move GDF back to its roots. A likely outcome is that this will come at the expense of the amount and type of music played at the inn. However, no decisions have been made yet, and I’d love to get input from others as well.
In the meantime, please keep the GDF guidelines in mind. This is really the guidelines we have had for years now. Some of our regular patrons break them regularly, though, so perhaps this is a good time to brush up on them? By following them, you help enable an immersive roleplaying area that many appreciate.
Green Dragon Friday guidelines
Please keep it lore-relevant
- The guiding principle for Green Dragon Friday is this: Your actions should be suitable for a hobbity lore-relevant night at the inn.
- Avoid using fireworks inside, avoid hitting others with the giant flowers you (really shouldn’t) wear, keep the chat topics hobbity.
- Leave your pets outside. Shrews, swans and grims don’t really belong inside a cozy inn.
Please keep /say in-character
- Remember that the /say channel on Laurelin is in-character, which means that it should only be used for dialogue about things that have a home in Middle Earth, and the Shire in particular
- ((Using double brackets like these is no excuse to break this)). The brackets only show that you are aware of the chat policy, but decide to break it anyway. The one exception we do is for announcements of local times for events, like /servertime, UK time or similar.
- If you need to speak OOC to someone, just send them a nice /tell, don’t involve the rest of us in /say
- Don’t use emoticons like :) ;p, or modern acronyms like LOL, BRB, WB or similar, in /say. They distract from the immersion. If you need to go AFK, just say “Oh, I need a quick break” instead of “((afk))”
- The servers you play on are not IC. If you say you’re from Crickhollow, we assume you come from Buckland. You didn’t meet someone on Landroval last week, because that would mean you were partying on the back of a huge eagle.
Please remember that Green Dragon Friday is an event for and by hobbits
- For lore reasons we ask that men and elves stay away from the event the two hours it lasts. It has always been this way, and it will be so in the future too. The players behind elf/men characters are usually grand and friendly, but the event changes immediately when they are present, turning it away from the hobbit centricness we are looking for. However, if you have quests inside the inn (like the Inn League Run), you should of course come inside and finish those even though you play elves/men.
- We don’t use an “honorary hobbit” system for tall folks.
- Dwarven visitors are as always welcome at the Dragon.
Please note that GDF is not a musical concert
- While music has always been important at GDF, this is not a concert where you should perform all sorts of OOC music.
- Try keep your music choices and lyrics somewhat suitable for a night at a hobbit inn. Folk/celtic songs is a good starting point. Drop the blatantly modern-day pop songs, unless you manage to hobbitify them through the use of innovative and in-character lyrics.
- If you’re in the audience, don’t yell out the real-world name of a song you recognize or the band playing it in real-life. That’s an immersion-breaker right there.
- Remember to keep your music performance short (10 minutes is the absolute max, incl. setup, but less is better). Keep things moving fast, that allows for more chat and interaction with others during breaks.
- Even though you sign up to play, sometimes there are so many offers we cannot accomodate all. Other entertainment offers than music-playing will be given priority at GDF.
Please do something else for entertainment than playing music
- Recite a poem, tell us a riddle, share some news from the Shire, or give us a short story instead of just going into ABC playback mode. That’s more fun from a RP perspective.
- Consider forgetting about dancing near the entertainment rug. Bring someone to a quiet corner elsewhere in the inn to discuss ale prices, the local crops or the weather. That gives a nice hobbit inn feel!
- It is somewhat creepy when the room gets filled with dual-boxing uniformed alts who just stand there staring at each other.
- Consider attending with just one main character, and join the fun when others try to interact with you.
Please be mindful of what is going on in the inn
- If someone is standing up to recite a tearful poem about lost hobbits on the Greenfield, it sort of undermines things if you merrily waltz into the inn/around the room, saying hello to each and hugging everyone in the process.
- Make the chat box space count, keep the signal to noise ratio high! You don’t need to go and individually greet all 20-30 persons in there when you arrive, that just clutters up the chat box for everyone. Don’t spam emotes.
Above all, have fun!
- No-one will yell at you for simple mistakes, but try to keep the points above in mind as you join the fun. That makes the evening grander for everyone!