Quest:Broken Laws and Hungry Men/Hungry Horses dialogue and story focus/relativity
*Note both quests an full dialogue can be found on the LOTRO Wiki*
If you an unfamiliar with the quest, it is received shortly after visiting Thangard in the Great River, to where you quickly discover that there's a power struggle over leadership between a military man and a diplomat and a large point of contention is food rations.
The men and to some extent the horses are not fed well - furthermore, it seems rations are being stolen. While you search for the stolen rations of one individual, you go to the food storage to hand out rations to some of the men - seems simple enough, mundane but importantly, it's relative.
The following occurs during the course of the two quests:
First they have you feed the horses from what seems to be the same sacks of food. I don't think the intention was to make you think the men and horses eat the same (grass?).
Next, when you do get to the men, they are clearly unhappy and some sad with the lack of rations which seem to be getting smaller and smaller each time - you almost feel bad for them.
You then look for the stolen rations and enter a kennel for dogs which (the game demonstrates for you) are well fed and there's extra food lying around.
The thief? turns out to be one of the men whom you just fed.
He gives some nonsensical 'they are my flock' rebuttal when you confront him, admitting he takes from the other men, but only little by little so he can take care of the dogs. He expects you will turn him in, but hopes you do not.
Here's where it gets wonky:
A) After you start to leave him, a message appears saying 'Athulf is guilty of stealing, but his deeds are honourable'
B) Your next objective is 'You should plead Athulf's cause to Byrnstan.' Byrstan was the victim who had his food stolen.
C) When you return to Byrstan, you tell him who stole the food, he then starts to make mention of how he's going to such and such Athulf - clearly he's not happy.
D)You then 'plead Athulf's case' by saying that Athulf used the food to feed the dogs whom would otherwise starve.
E) Byrnstan responds by stating "'I have noticed that he does show particular kindness to those dogs. There was once a time when we had food enough for all, sparse though it was, but nobody thinks of the dogs anymore.
'I will keep this incident a secret, and even share some of my food with the beasts, provided Athulf does not steal anymore!'"
F) Finally you report this to the original main NPC(Gadda) whom set you with these tasks and he states "It is not good that there is stealing in Stangard. This was rarely a problem before. If Byrnstan does not wish to take futher action against Athulf, I will gladly let this matter drop.
The food issue is reaching the point of crisis. Something must be done, and soon.'
Let's look at this point by point:
A) How are his deeds honourable? He stole, and he stole from humans to give to animals for which I can see have no defined use (as opposed to say the horses, which do). But if he was stealing to feed himself (a human), so he could stay better prepared to fight and defend, that's not honourable? Maybe not, though it's understandable.
Not only is "honourable" completely misused here, it's ludicrous considering the source.
B & D) There's no case to be pleaded, certainly not in the defense of helping a pack of dogs. And the dogs are inconsequential ; better they starve and die than the humans don't you think? Besides guess what happens when the food runs out? They kill and eat the dogs.
E) So one moment ago he wanted to strangle the guy or at least punish him, but then he hears his heroic tale of inspiring animal love and suddenly that justifies it. He then states that there is clearly not enough food, yet no one thinks of the dogs anymore. Well I wonder why!? Then he offers to share some of his already shortage of food with the dogs, in exchange for Athulf not thieving anymore. Wait, what is the point here again?
F) Lastly, Gadda says the obvious - it's not good that there is stealing and yet he will not take the any action if the victim (Byrnstan) does not wish to press the matter. But then concludes by stating that(and reiterating) food is at a crisis point and something must be done. Uh, how about stop feeding the dogs for starters?
I don't know if the writer for this quest is a flaming P.E.T.A. card carrier, or just really dense but that the Broken Laws quest was rendered completely inane and silly given the clearly not so liberal environment that this fiction depicts. It has to be by far the worst quest dialogue that I've ever seen in any game, let alone LOTRO which usually gives us relevant, worthwhile and useful quests (if only the basic ones). Even the hunt and gather 10 hides has more pertinent substance than this one. It manages to somehow take two quests that are of relevance to the land you're visiting and has plausible premise regarding the activities surrounding the situation and proceeds to run it straight into the ground with a terrible body of content that would probably make even Paris Hilton go 'what?!'
1) In the Hungry Men, Hungrey Horses quest, feed the humans first before the horses. Let's have some common sense and consistency here.
2) Either do away with the Broken Laws quest entirely, or change the script to not include any mention of animals and think up something else that's more relevant.
I cannot stand bad and bland writing, particularly when it's completely irrelevant to the context and content being presented to you. Additionally I value LOTRO especially for it's view on the lore and it's attention to detail and immersion. I read many quest dialogues for this immersion purpose, which was thrown entirely out the window when I got through this quest.
If I wanted to hear such subliminal messages about animal welfare, I would just turn on the television.