Author’s Note: MadeOfLions and ThePinion from SSG’s Dev team have addressed the Calaquendi issue – the current prologue text identifying the player character as having dwelt in Valinor is incorrect. Their quotes will follow the text of this post.

To preface this post, I’ve been playing LOTRO since 2008. I’m a massive LOTR fan – enough so that our Rebekah’s middle name is Luthien. One aspect of LOTRO’s IP that can sometimes be frustrating is the fact that they can only use The Hobbit and the LOTR Trilogy – not the Silmarillion, or the other entries into the posthumous Tolkien canon. That being said, Standing Stone Games, the successor to Turbine, decided to add the “High Elf” race to the available choices, coinciding with the release of the upcoming Mordor expansion. The announcement was greeted with excitement, as well as some trepidation in some quarters. Here’s an interview snippet I want to share, to start with.

Pay close attention to it, because it will be important.

MMO-C: All righty. Let’s turn back to happy fun Made of Lions. We want to talk High Elves. You guys have already said there won’t be a new class coming out like what happened with Beornings. And Professor Olsen, of course people are going to ask him what he thought about it on his livestream on the official last week or the week before. He said the High Elves would by lore default be Noldorin like Galadriel or Sindar like Thranduil rather than Vanyar cos they never came back from Valinor. So if this happens, will we be getting a new starting instance for them to explain how they’re coming back to Middle earth because High Elves are the ones who went to Valinor and came back.

Libby: Well, that’s primarily the case but for our interpretation, one of the things that we’re thinking of going with is that it’s not only Elves who went to Valinor and came back, it’s also their descendants. We’re going with the concept of… and this is one of those things I think is sort of necessary in our game, in that you’ll need to be… you may have some proportion of High Elf in your blood, for instance, in order to in a way power you down slightly, so that you’re not Galadriel running around, because that’s not really the power level I think we can suspend disbelief on all that well in there are hundreds of High Elves running around and they’re all Galadriel-level people. I think that’s not a realistic way to present it, so we’re going more with the concept that there are people and characters of High Elf ancestry in addition to the sort of straight-up High Elves that we know from the book like Galadriel and in that way, we could have High Elf adventurers that weren’t mentioned, for example, like we traditionally have done with several of our other races and classes. I’m not sure that Grimbeorn had hundreds of kids running around, but for our game, you can make a Beorning and have Beorning adventures. So for the High Elf, you would be a High Elf in that you still have the benefits of being a High Elf and maybe some of the drawbacks that there might also be, like still working out gameplay concept for all of this obviously, but Sauron is going to be especially unhappy about High Elves and that might cause some difficulties for you. You’re going to be feeling the call of Valinor more strongly than other people, than other Elves even. And, as for the original question, we will probably have some starting instance of some stripe, but I don’t want to get into what that will entail at the moment.

Snook: I would say that, and Professor Olsen will probably appreciate this, we do have a fairly large what you might call a lore-doc in how High Elves would fit into Lord of the Rings Online, and that’s something we’ve been looking at, and a lot of it is a little behind the scenes kind of documentation, but we’re looking at a way to perhaps distill that for community read to help kind of place where they will fit into the game.

Ciccolini: Yes. I would love to see the community sort of have more insight into the gratuitous amounts of lore documentation that we generate.

Snook: (laughter) It’s a massive document.

Ciccolini: The community just doesn’t see some of this fantastic stuff.

Snook: I was like, ‘why is this PDF so large?’

So, with that in mind – spoilers incoming. Seriously. Lots of spoilers.

This expansion is due to release July 31st. That means, as of this writing, in ~9 days. We just saw what is likely going to be the final beta before the scheduled launch. I’m not going to talk about the expansion “pre-purchase” prices, the decision to postpone LP purchases until “Winter” (winter officially begins on Dec. 21st) and/or the release of Update 22, which will include the instances and raids. This is just about the High Elf.

So, when you start the instance, after creating your character and such, you have a bit of background announcer voice, telling you you’re at the Battle of Dagorlad. This is approximately 7 years before the first overthrow of Sauron by the Last Alliance – which culminates with both Gil-Galad and Elendil perishing, but Isildur cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand.

You’re on your way to throw down the Black Gate! You’re called ahead to come stand with Gil-Galad, as he and Elendil rally the troops to save the bacon of the Moriquendi (non-Noldor) elves who pressed ahead and got lambasted by Sauron’s forces – those elves, incidentally, were lead by Thranduil’s father Oropher, and Amdir, king of Lórinand (later, Lorien) – father of Amroth – yes, that Amroth. After you listen to the speech, Gil-Galad speaks very familiarly to you, and invites you along to treat with nine riders of some repute, who make up an embassy from Sauron.

So, you, your elf companion you’re obviously close to (even if it’s not explained in detail) stand up to the 9 riders with 7 other notables. Why other notables? Here’s the list: Gil-Galad, Glorfindel, Cirdan, Elrond, Elendil, Anarion, Isildur. You two are who get added to make an equal number to the Nazgul. In company with those 7 names. Seeing a problem yet? You are not inferiors in this company – you’re equals. Yes, Gil-Galad is your High King – but you’re a trusted quantity, whom he is expecting. Your first mission you receive is to go rescue Prince Thranduil. Your second mission is to rescue a fellow Noldor – and you immediately run into Prince Amroth on your way – who also speaks to you in familiar terms.

You get further directions, and run down the Nazgul haring off with your fellow Calaquendi. You and your companion fight your way into the camp, and your companion holds off the bulk of the remaining troops – and encourages you to run down the Nazgul. You do so. Then you are paralyzed with fear as your approach him. I repeat: You are paralyzed with fear as you approach him. I won’t even harp on the fact that he’s called “The Witch King” when that title won’t exist for another 1300 years or so, when Angmar comes about. What I will harp about is that this is utter nonsense from a lore perspective – even in the LOTR trilogy. Why? Read this line:

“In Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power.”

But it gets worse. Not only are we frozen in fear – the Nazgul stabs us with a Morgul-blade (like the one that stabbed Frodo) – telling us we’re returning to be Gil-Galad’s greatest foe, and we’re about to face the power of the Unseen! So, this guy who was just chillin’ with Gil-Galad and Glorfindel – pretty mighty and righteous dude – is frozen like a deer in the headlights by a Man – a dead man – a Ringwraith – who Elf-lords aren’t afraid of. Elf-Lords have great power against the Unseen that Nazzy was just bragging about. What are you? An Elf-Lord. Oh, but it gets worse. This morgul blade – and I kid you not, here – puts you in a coma for 3025 years. I repeat: 3025 years. But, as we’re shown in the intro, someone else got stabbed by a Nazgul 3 thousand years prior, too. So I guess that makes it okay, right?

Uh. What? At least they changed it to a knife from the original sword he stabbed you with. Which was by no means a Morgul-blade – but I digress. Let’s get this straight, all the cards on the table. In the following prologue, you’re identified as an elf who dwelt in Valinor, the Blessed Realm itself. You are not just a descendant of someone who has – you, yourself, beheld the light of the Two Trees. You saw the Silmarils. You have met the Valar. You’re a Calaquendi in truth, not just in descent. What this means, for those of you who weren’t staring in disbelief when Elrond says “I don’t mean to alarm you, but this is the year 3018 in the Third Age”:

I) If, as the new Prologue states, our new High-Elf buddy dwelt in Valinor, then he is undoubtedly Noldor. He’s not Moriquendi, like every other playable Elf thus far. He’s Calaquendi.

II) Not only Calaquendi, but Noldor, since only the Noldor, of the Calaquendi, returned to Middle Earth at any other time than for the War of Wrath – and he followed either a) Feanor or b) Fingolfin. Given our character’s closeness to Gil-Galad, it’s most likely that he followed Fingolfin – and was thus not party to the kinslaying. Not certain, but likely. But this is clear – if he saw the light of the trees, and is thus a High Elf – a Calquendi – then he was definitely Noldor.

III) Not only that, but is most likely a survivor of Helcaraxë, Dagor Aglareb, the Siege of Angband, Dagor Bragollach (where Fingolfin died), Nírnaeth Arnoediad (where Fingon died), and finally, the War of Wrath – and almost certainly, as a member of the house of the High-King Gil-Galad – also fought in the War of the Elves and Sauron, just prior to the arrival of Numenorean reinforcements, who turn the tide, and results in Sauron’s defeat. If you’re not familiar with any of those names, feel free to Google them – but suffice it to say that they involved lots, and lots, and lots of fighting – against things lots scarier than Ringwraiths – and survived them all. He’s not a common soldier in the Battle of Dagorlad, either. Given his incredibly consistent knack for survival, and the fact that he has been around at least since the Noldor were firmly established in Aman – because as a child, he could hardly have been expected to have successfully crossed the Grinding Ice alive – he is far older than Elrond, far more experienced, far more martially skilled, and exceptionally hardy. Oh, and he’s far more powerful than Elrond, too – since Elrond isn’t wearing his Ring while Sauron is wearing his! Our guy is a Calaquendi – Elrond is not.

IV) He’s a follower of, in order; a) The guy who fought Morgoth in single combat b) The guy who fought Gothmog *and* other Balrogs (the same ones who killed Feanor, by the by) c) The guy who fought, together with Elendil, Sauron – and won, despite their deaths. You’re right up there with the folks who end up fighting Sauron at the end. For good reason. You’re one of the most experienced warriors alive. More experienced than Elrond, more experienced than Elendil, Isildur – and you are a contemporary of Gil-Galad. I say again – a contemporary of Gil-Galad. Unlike Thranduil, you’re Calaquendi. Unlike Elrond. Unlike everyone mentioned but Glorfindel – who soloed a Balrog, remember? You’re one of a very few Calaquendi left in Middle Earth. Remember, most of the Exiles left after the War of Wrath. You are one of a vanishing few of the Calaquendi left in ME. You belong standing there with Glorfindel and Gil-Galad – who didn’t quail when facing Sauron face to face, in person – while wearing his Ring, to boot.

V) Yet, inexplicably, you quail in the face of someone you’re clearly not supposed to be afraid of – a Ringwraith. You are stabbed by a knife that has powers that you are clearly resistant to, told you will face a realm that you have great power over – the Unseen. You are placed, by this wildly unlikely concatenation of circumstance, into a coma for over three millennia – and wake up just in time to start leveling up to fight Sauron again.

The Noldor were central to all of the major battles against Morgoth. They may not all have fought in every skirmish – but I didn’t mention the skirmishes – I mentioned the great and titanic battles – which the Noldor are all said to have participated in. The Noldor are doomed. Doomed by Mandos, and by their own oath. Few survive at the time of the Last Alliance, and those who have, through travails and perils – battles uncounted, not least that of the War of Wrath – after which all their fellows returned to Aman. It’s quite obvious, however, that from the beginning, the Host of the Noldor was not only warlike, but there specifically for the purpose of war. They didn’t make war all the time they were in Middle Earth, but war always and ever found them – because they were cursed. They were a host that set out for war and vengeance. Since they chose to make our character a real live, honest-to-goodness saw-the-light-of-the-two-trees Noldor, they’re stuck with the consequences – and those consequences are such that our characters must, by simple logic, be among a veritable double handful of the most powerful individuals on the face of Middle Earth – because not all who follow Gil-Galad are Calaquendi. Most, I would argue, are either descendants of Calaquendi, or Sindar – both of which are Moriquendi – those who never saw the Trees.

At the time of the Last Alliance the greater part of the ravaged remnant of the fugitives from the Noldor are gone, back to Aman. There are precisely 2 Calaquendi rulers remaining in ME – Gil-Galad and Galadriel. Elrond, despite his lineage, never saw the Trees. Celeborn is Moriquendi. Cirdan is Moriquendi. Galadriel and Celeborn rule a realm composed almost entirely of Moriquendi. Very few Noldor – a remnant of a remnant of a remnant, live in ME. There is still a High King who remains in ME to oppose Sauron, now that Morgoth was banished. Thus, the greater part of the Noldor that remain, remain under Gil-Galad – and they have been at constant war since SA 1693 – we enter and end the intro story in SA 3434. This war has continued for 1741 years – and continues for 7 years after our character is “struck down”. He (or she) has been at constant, desperate war for 1426 years longer than Elendil has been alive. The First Age begins, roughly, around the time that the Crossing ends, and the Moon rises – and lasts about 590 years – so this war has lasted nearly 3 times as long as the First Age, in it’s entirety. Whether he’s sick of war or not – he’s probably one of the most powerful, experienced, and deadly beings on the face of Middle Earth.

What I’m pretty convinced of is that by the time we hit the Last Alliance, the Noldor are down to hundreds – no more than a thousand or two – including Moriquendi descendants of Calaquendi. The Sindar are more numerous, of course – as are the Edain – but the Noldor who remain have fought the armies of Sauron for nearly two millennia now. – for 3 times the length of the First Age. Sauron is on par with a Balrog, being a Maia. Balrogs are more than enough to go on with, as they were death of many an elf-lord to date! However, the fact that our character is himself a wearer of a lesser ring – “and in anger and fear they took off their rings.” They are not to be mastered by Sauron this way. The Elves were not deceived. Yes, Sauron is powerful – but not as powerful as the enemies of old. The problem is, the Noldor are not a mighty host, as of old. They are attacked viciously at Eregion (and ever after) by the chief lieutenant of their old enemy, true – but they are not deceived – and our character survives the experience. He survives nearly two millennia more of war, as well – on top of the bloodbath of the First Age’s War against Morgoth. Even then, Sauron “dared not as yet to pass the Mountains of Ered Luin nor to assail the Havens.” Why? Because of the Noldor, in the first case, and the power of the Rings, in the second.

But it must also be said that the Last Alliance was “a great host of Elves and Men”; “fairer and more splendid in arms than any that has since been seen in Middle-earth” – so it was by no means small – what I believe, however, is that the Sindar were by far the most numerous – as they ever were. The Nolder were indeed powerful, even diminished – but they were by no means numerous. I really wish SSG had stuck to their original plan and made it the children of ME, who didn’t see the light of the trees. This story might have flown, if they had. They listened to the people who said “it’s not a high elf if they didn’t see the Two Trees” – and those people were right – but the story they have implemented seems to be far more suited to their initial plans. Calaquendi are otherworldly, by intention. Ringwraiths are powerful, but all power wrought by the Dark in this world is a pale imitation. Given what Sauron had to work with, it simply doesn’t make sense to believe that any enslaved evil – especially not a mere man – can immobilize a Calaquendi in dread – let alone inflict the sort of wound (with the sort of effects) that Frodo suffered.

SSG is very limited with what they can bring into the game, about the Noldor. What I’m annoyed about is not what they are leaving out (because, since they don’t have the rights to the Silmarillion, they HAVE to leave most of it out) but what they are introducing – against what even the canon they are allowed to use would countenance. Not only that, while they can’t *use* the extra-LOTR canonical sources, they should stinking well know what that source material says. You don’t have to include that material to avoid not making a mockery of it. If they leave this silly coma, the Nazgul-Lord air-stabby-while-dreaded in, that will rank up there with Skorgrim for “uh, what?” LOTRO moments. There are lots of ways to make it less specific – in a variety of ways – that don’t twist the lore into a pretzel. This introduction of the Noldor is a horrible idea – horribly implemented – and against their better instincts from the first. They really did do a good job with the lore concerning the descendants of the Faithful – who built the realms of Arnor and Gondor. No question there. This, however, is a massive fail – directly in the heart of the greater world which they are only playing in a corner of.

There are so many things wrong with the expansion as a whole on the beta server right now that I can’t even begin to imagine that it’ll be released on time. I can’t even begin to tell you how big a mistake this will be, if the High Elf is released like it is – especially with the story it has. It’s insanity. Do you want your IP yanked for cause? As it stands, you’re running a risk that someone will be upset enough about this to complain to them. If that hasn’t occurred to you, it probably should. I’m writing this not to just harp on this release – but because I genuinely care about the story it’s supposed to be set in. I like Gondor and all – I even like Hobbits – but the Exiles are the central story to the larger story behind it all. This review is very blunt – because I told you all of these things as soon as you showed them to us. You might have listened about the Morgul-Sword – but that was by far the least of the lore issues with this intro, or prologue. These are not minor issues. They’re not gameplay issues, or class issues. This goes to the very heart of Middle Earth – and to who other characters that you’ve tried to hard to make so powerful and otherworldly. If you insist on this, you’ve just undercut the very reason that they’re so powerful and otherworldly. They’ve seen the Trees, and marched to recapture the Silmarils – and thereby been Doomed by Mandos. These are not a people who are terrorized by Nazgul. Nazgul are children to them.


Gladden Server – Warden Main since Wardens were a thing.

P.S. – It was really cool to meet the *real* inspiration for the Warden – Gil-Galad. That doesn’t mean I’m any happier with you over this, SSG.



Looks like a bug to me, likely an early version of the string that slipped through in order to meet the localization deadline. I felt the Descendants inclusion was important for explaining the difference in power-levels, although everyone is welcome to make their own story for their own characters.



As a note, I’ve also changed some of the text in the High Elf-specific Celondim prologue to be a little less explicit about your origin in the same way that MoL described. There’s been a lot of back and forth on the High Elf, and MoL and I are definitely in agreement on these changes.

P.P.S. – Okay, now I’m not unhappy. Still think the coma is silly, and that Morgul-blades can’t affect Elves like that; but, meh. Lot smaller issue. Thanks for the communication, SSG.