Dread represents the penalties caused by the nearby environment, and even some enemies. For example, if you are in a high Dread area or are facing a Nazgûl or some other terrible creature, you might have decreased Morale and not be able to fight as well.
The Mechanics of Hope and Dread (from LOTRO Senior Designer Keth)
The initial inspiration for the system was what I was calling the "evil-o-meter." I just imagined getting near some source of great evil, such as the Witch-king, and watching a needle peg all the way to right. And it's hard to explain, but imagining that in my mind made the situation that much more intense and cool. For some reason, that completely artificial mechanism added an important layer to the scene. Sure, we try to convey evil through our art, sound cues and other sources, but it just seemed really awesome to me to really tell you, the player, that, "HEY, THIS GUY IS EVIL!"
Of course, some sort of Geiger counter of evil isn't appropriate to our game world, so we convey that you are near sources of evil through a change in the game's music, portions of the User Interface (UI) changing, and the world itself seeming darker and more oppressive. I think it's pretty dramatic and cool. As we've already talked about, the books aren't all about evil and dread -- hope is just as important a concept, so our UI reflects that as well.
All right, so now that you'll know when you're near evil or good, what exactly are the effects of hope and dread on your character? As I mentioned above, those emotions had a definite impact on the characters in the books, so they should have an impact on your character as well. Our first step was to essentially add an attribute of sorts which reflects the character's mood.
The Mood attribute ranges between -10 and +10. A -10 Mood represents the depths of despair and hopelessness, while a +10 represents the heights of hope and jubilation. So what effect does mood have on your character? I'm glad you asked!
Characters experiencing Hope find that:
Characters experiencing Dread find that:
Now that we've defined your character's mood, let's talk flavors of mood.
Flavors of Mood
When reviewing the books, you could classify those moments of hope and dread into three categories:
Of those categories, two of them, people and situations, could be said to be "of the moment," or active mood moments. When that person was present or when that turn of events took place, the mood of the characters almost instantly changed. The third source, though, locations, could be thought of as an underlying mood that was engendered by the place due to its history or who lived there. We could say these were passive mood moments.
Let's give a few examples of each type:
Hopeful: Galadriel, Gandalf, Elrond, Tom Bombadil
Dreadful: The Witch-king, the Balrog, Frodo (when he's bearing the Ring, that is.)
Hopeful situations: The Ride of the Rohirrim, the Eagles' arrival at the Black Gate
Dreadful situations: The Siege of Minas Tirith, Helm's Deep (before Gandalf's arrival)
Hopeful locations: Rivendell, the Shire, Lothlórien
Dreadful locations: Shelob's Cave, Mordor
Now, here's where things get a bit complicated. As described above, we have two flavors of Mood moments: active moments and passive moments. It could be argued that active moments and passive moments "stack," or amplify each other. For instance, things looked dark in Moria, but when the Balrog appeared, things really got bad. This stacking of moments is another aspect of the Mood system in our game.
The Hows and Whys of Passive Mood
How exactly does this stacking of mood work? Well, we're going to examine passive mood moments first, since they may be the more difficult to understand. First, let's talk about passive hope. When you enter a hopeful region of the world, such as Rivendell, you will find that your character's mood immediately improves. Things just seem better, due to the hope of the region. If you got near a hopeful NPC in Rivendell, well, your mood would be all that much better. That NPC's hope would stack with the hope of the region.
What though if you entered a dreadful region of the world, like Angmar? Well your mood doesn't instantly get worse. Instead, if you suffer a defeat in Angmar, you'll find that you're temporarily afflicted with dread. This simulates the temporary doubt you might suffer at failing in your last battle. How dreadful your character feels after a defeat depends on how terrible the region is. Also, as with passive hope above, if you were suffering with passive dread and got near a source of active dread, well, your character's day would be that much worse.
To try and put this in common MMO terms, you could think of passive hope as a buff given by a region, while passive dread is a death penalty, the severity of which depends on the region where you were defeated.
How about Active Mood?
Hopefully (no pun intended) you've followed so far, because now we're turning our attention to active mood moments. These are a bit simpler to understand. If you are in the proximity of an active mood source, like a person, you will find that your mood is changed. If you find that you are near two mood sources of the same type, only the more powerful mood affects you.
You may not have followed that, so let's give an example: Let's say you run into Gandalf and Legolas in Rivendell. Rivendell has already given you some level of hope, but getting near two of the Fellowship members makes your day all the better. However, Gandalf is a more inspiring person than Legolas, so only his hope is affecting you, not Legolas'.
Pushing Back the Darkness
Now your character isn't completely at the mercy of external sources for your character's mood. You don't have to wait for Gandalf to swoop in to help you if you find yourself in an especially dreadful situation. No, you can fight back against the dread with your own sources of hope. What are these sources? Well, they are varied. I won't provide a complete list here, but you'll find that certain character skills can inspire hope, as can some items or temporary perks. (Perks are temporary buffs purchased by Destiny points, as an aspect of our monster play system.) Whatever their source, you'll find yourself with plenty of options to help stir your character's mood to face the challenges ahead. Better yet, these player-generated sources of hope stack with both passive and active hope sources!
I hope (again, no pun intended) this has provided some insight into our Mood system in The Lord of the Rings Online. I think it's one of the many unique systems found in our game, really building off of the concepts and situations presented in the Books of Tolkien and making them into an interesting game system!
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