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Western Rohan - The Region: A Developer's Diary


West Rohan – Region Dev Diary

By Lauren “Budgeford” Salk


The second chapter of Rohan’s story has finally come to LOTRO, and it’s a big one. Everything leading up to the Battle at Helm’s Deep will be taking place in the many lands of West Rohan: Kingstead, Edoras, the Eastfold, Broadacres, the Stonedeans, and the Westfold. This is the front line of the war against Isengard, and when we arrive at Edoras to meet Théoden, king of Rohan, the fate of the Rohirrim hangs by a thread.
This area features leveling from 85-95, new mounted combat spaces, new warbands, and a great many new stories along the way. 
It is the eve of battle, and foes and allies alike are all rushing to Helm’s Deep seeking refuge, revenge, and an end to the war…one way or another.

A Unique Challenge

Big Tolkien

We content people get really excited about getting to work with what we call “Big T” – that is, major Tolkien characters…so much so that we squabble over dibs on using them in our stories. For many areas of the game until now, the influence of the books has been vague (such as in Forochel, the North Downs, Dunland). We always tie in as many book references as we can, but there are limits to what we can show when we’re creating many of our regions, simply because the major characters of LOTR didn’t spend much time there, if any.
Not West Rohan! This is it – we are now synced up with the books. Instead of vague points of inspiration, we have serious book facts to uphold in our story. While it’s been wonderful to work with the major characters in “real time” for a change, it’s been a struggle to hunt down all of the important facts. Was Théoden in his armor by now, or was he still in normal clothes? Was Gimli in the fields by this time, or still in the Glittering Caves? Where did Gandalf go when he parted ways before the battle at Helm’s Deep, and how can we show his deeds? It feels as if we’ve had a million considerations of this nature. I can’t think of any region in which we’ve had so many direct references to events happening “now” in the books, rather than a memory or footprint left behind by the story. 

Intense Timeline

The timeline in the books during the Two Towers is absolutely nuts when translated into game time. We’re looking at 10 levels worth of content from when we join Théoden to when we reach Helm’s Deep. These events actually take place on the same day, but that doesn’t translate well to LOTRO time. Rather than being handwavy at the important events that take place to speed up time, we’re kind of…ignoring the time thing, and instead focusing on all of the interesting events that will happen between Edoras and Helm’s Deep.

Meet the Region Content Designers

I thought it would be nice to let the designers who worked on each division say hello for a change. Here are their thoughts on the work they did for Update 12.
Environment by Matt “Scarycrow” Fahey
Content by Ryan “Pinion” Penk
Written by Pinion:
Home to Edoras and Théoden King, Kingstead is the first division in Western Rohan and focuses primarily on the untold stories of Éowyn as she struggles to send her people to safety in Dunharrow, far from the hostility growing on the plains of Rohan. Éowyn’s strength as both a leader and a shield-maiden will serve her well as you work alongside her to protect the people of Rohan.
To say I was excited to work on Kingstead is an understatement. Kingstead is home to some of the most lore-rich and fascinating locations in all of Rohan. It features Edoras, Dunharrow, The Dark Door, and the list goes on! Each location plays a huge role in Kingstead’s content and has a distinct atmosphere – such as the winding Stair of the Hold flanked by the mysterious Púkel-men.
Kingstead begins with a town preparing to evacuate, a theme that defines the remainder of the content in the division. While the White Hand’s influence is felt less this close to Meduseld, Kingstead still faces strong opposition from Saruman’s forces as well as a foe long-thought defeated in the form of grim Orcs of the White Mountains. As war weighs heavily on these lands, the Thanes and rulers of each settlement must either summon the courage to press on through dire times or be crushed utterly by the horrors of war.
One of the biggest challenges in building Kingstead was ensuring that every character was where they needed to be at the proper time. We’re in an extremely active part of Tolkien’s epic, and between Edoras and Kingstead proper, tons of people are moving around as the War of the Ring intensifies. Budgeford and I put a ton of effort into making Edoras and Kingstead truly feel alive, and we hope that you enjoy it!
Environment by Matt “Scarycrow” Fahey 
Content by Lauren “Budgeford” Salk
Written by Budgeford:
Edoras has been left in Éowyn’s capable hands, much to her bitter disappointment, for she would rather ride out amongst those who would lay down their lives to protect their lands and their king. Parted from those she loves, she must instead orchestrate the tedious task of convincing many resisting townsfolk to abandon their homes.
The people of Edoras are commanded by King Théoden to evacuate to Dunharrow, but it is no easy task to ready so many for such a great move. The player is asked to assist the stubborn folk of Dunfast, and to help Éowyn to regain the cheer that was lost during Wormtongue’s long stay in Meduseld. 
Environment by “Drachyn”
Content by Jesse “Eldorudo” Smith
Written by Eldorudo:
Among the oldest Ridings in the Mark, Eastfold lies on the edge of Gondor, across the Mering-stream and is nestled against the White Mountains to the south. Eastfold has seen little of the destruction wrought by Saruman, due to being located on the far side of the realm from Isengard. Still, Eastfold is vulnerable with many of the Rohirrim being called to defend the Hornburg. The lands of Eastfold fall into three areas: the rich farmlands of the Folde, the swampy marshes of the Fenmarch and the thickly forested hunting grounds of the Everholt.
Rich with history, Eastfold is home to the former capital of Rohan; Aldburg. While still maintaining an air of majesty, Aldburg has become overgrown and rundown. The few that remain are prepared to defend their home at all costs. A new threat with ties to Eastfold’s past has recently made its presence known. Outside help is needed to combat this threat and to keep Eastfold’s beacon of hope shining bright.
Working on Eastfold presented me with a unique challenge. I was designing an area of West Rohan with a fair amount of established history. I wanted to treat it with the utmost care, but still introduce some other unique personalities and situations. The single coolest aspect that jumped out at me was the character, King Folca. He has long since perished, but through the beauty of session play, I was able to tell a piece of Rohan history. This became the basis for a large portion of the story that will play out for you as you work your way through the quests.
Environment by Ross “Iceman” Glover 
Content by Jon “Berephon” Rudder
Written by Berephon:
At the heart of Rohan lies the Broadacres, a region of prime grazing land governed by Fríthild, the only woman to hold the seat of Reeve. Trained from childhood in the ways of a shield-maiden, she mentored a young Éowyn in the art of battle. Now her Riding is under assault by forces from Isengard. Warg-riders burn the western fields of the Acres, while in the north Dunlendings invade from the Stonedeans in a mad crusade to reclaim their homeland of old. Reeve Fríthild now rushes to prepare for the inevitable siege of Stoke, the capital of the Broadacres.
Players will aid the people of the Broadacres with preparations for the inevitable siege, defend the gates of Stoke against a Raid-sized warband, and fight alongside Reeve Fríthild and her Thanes, Ordlac and Tordag, while uncovering a nefarious plot against the people of the Broadacres. 
Environment by Travis “TheAngryKoala” Healy 
Content by “Mithlin”
Written by Mithlin:
The Stonedeans is where the Rohirrim and Dunlendings have lived in relative peace for some time.  
Most of the Dunlendings in Rohan were exiled long ago into what is now Dunland, but those who remained stayed in the Stonedeans.  However, the tensions have risen of late, as Saruman inspires the Dunlendings to join him and reclaim their old lands.  
Saruman has agents everywhere, his influence far-reaching, and he has begun to undermine the leadership of Woodhurst, the capital of the Stonedeans.  The city has become dangerous for any Rohirrim living there and many are fleeing.
The leadership in Woodhurst struggle to maintain control while trying to determine friend from foe.  Time is short as an army of the White Hand marches upon the city and has claimed most of the southern Stonedeans.  Those still loyal to the Rohirrim have to muster their allies or risk being consumed by the White Hand’s war machine.
Environment by Chris “Trotter” Pierson
Content by Lauren “Budgeford” Salk
Written by Budgeford:
The Westfold is a major hub of activity from the Two Towers. It contains Helm’s Deep and the Fords of Isen, where the war between Isengard and Rohan primarily takes place, and is home to several important heroes of the land -- namely Erkenbrand and Grimbold. Many of the people and places were only briefly touched upon in Tolkien’s writing. Here in LOTRO, we had a chance to delve deeply into these characters and places, and what they mean to Rohan.
When the player visits this land, Isengard’s forces will have already taken the Fords of Isen and crossed into the plains, and the heroes of the Westfold are now missing since the Fords fell. The brave soldiers have left behind women to look after their home towns, with young Agelwyn acting as Thane in Marton, and Hildith, wife of Grimbold, furious with her absent husband in Grimslade.
These brave women must face great hardship and grave danger in the absence of the land’s warriors, for if Helms’ Deep falls, they will be next.

Final Thoughts

So this is it – it’s time to see what happens to the beautiful realm of the Horse-lords. We’ve had a great time delving into making this enormous area come to life, and we hope to meet you there!

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