UPDATE (June 6): I've finally translated this guide into 3 interlinked "Game Mechanics" articles for the LOTRO Lorebook. I will no longer be revising this guide, and suggest that discussion threads move to the "Discussion" tabs for each respective Lorebook article. Here are the links to the respective articles (and yes, I have some even newer information in those based on yet another round of testing specifically for the interaction of auto-attacks and cooldowns):
UPDATE (June 3): After further extensive testing of my own, it appears that several assertions in the original version of this guide were wrong. (About half of my original version of this guide was based on reviews of other people's posts and observations, and the other half was based on my own testing.) The two significant changes based on my further testing are:
- Auto-attack "ticks" are largely independent of all other factors except that they are delayed (or possibly overwritten) by skills with long induction times. The only reason that faster weapons enable you to chain your various skills faster is due to the faster animations of the auto-attack "ticks" that fall in between your chained skills due to either the global cooldown timer or the cooldown timer of the next-queued skill in your current chain. For example, most 2H weapons have longer attack animation times than faster 1H weapons, and there is variation in the animation speeds of the 1H weapons too.
- The damage reduction of off-hand weapons is quite minimal, and is based on the weapon's lowest value in its damage range, not a flat 60% or 70% reduction as originally reported. Both main- and off-hand weapons hit on the same tick and and are evaluated separately for miss/parry/dodge/crit, etc. There is no penalty to miss/parry/dodge/crit for the off-hand weapon. This means that your pure auto-attack DPS can often be higher with a dual-wielded weapon combo than with a 2H weapon, although a 2H weapon can make up for the lower auto-attack DPS by yielding much higher attack skill damage when using mostly attack skills with only main-hand "swings".
For these reasons, the overall content of this guide has changed significantly.
Basic terms and formulas
- Speed: The weapon tooltip's listed weapon speed value. Lower values mean a faster weapon. Note that the real underlying Speed is rounded to 1 decimal place in the tooltip.
- Speed determines the rate at which your auto-attack "ticks" occur.
- Speed also affects the +damage modifier of your skill-based attacks. A slower weapon will increase the +damage modifer, and a faster weapon will decrease the +damage modifier.
- For dual-wielders, your effective Speed is actually the average of the Speed value of both your weapons (add both Speed values and then divide by 2). There are not separate auto-attack ticks for each weapon. Both weapons always attack on the same tick. For example, if you have a 2.3 Speed weapon in your main hand and a 1.7 Speed weapon in your off-hand, your effective Speed is 2.0 and both weapons will always attack together on a 2.0-second auto-attack "tick" rate.
- Max Damage: The weapon tooltip's highest value in the listed Damage range.
- Avg Damage: The weapon tooltip's lowest and highest values, added together then divided by 2. For example, a 6-10 weapon's avg damage would be (6 + 10) / 2 = 8.
- DPS: A simple value shown on the weapon's tooltip. It is the the result of a weapon's average damage divided by its speed. Note that the real, underlying DPS is rounded to 1 decimal place in the tooltip.
Off-hand weapons do have damage reduction but it's less than in most other MMOs
When dual-wielding, the weapon in your off-hand slot is capped to hit for the lowest value in the weapon's listed damage range, plus or minus a small percentage (usually just a point or two on either side of the lowest listed value). The offhand weapon can still crit at a normal rate (with no penalties for being in the off-hand), but it crits for roughly double the capped off-hand damage range. For example, a 9 - 13 weapon in your off-hand usually hits for 9 points (sometimes 8 or 10 points), and it crits for around 17 points, give or take a point.
The damage reduction affects only auto-attack damage. All of your weapon-based skills that mention bonus damage based on your "off-hand" weapon are not affected by this damage reduction. In other words, if you have a skill that uses the "max damage" of the off-hand, and your off-hand weapon's listed Max Damage value is 10, then the bonus damage from that skill is based on a value of 10. Some of the following sections will elaborate on the important stats for off-hand weapons.
Speed affects your power burn rate
Weapons with a lower Speed value (a "faster" weapon) have auto-attack animations that are typically faster than weapons with higher Speed values ("slower" weapons) such as 2H weapons. Because of the global cooldown timer between chained skills, and/or because the next-queued skill in your attack chain might still be in its cooldown phase, there are always some "ticks" of auto-attack damage that occur in between the queued-up skills in your attack chain. Because these few auto-attack animations that occur in between are literally faster for the faster weapons, the net result is that you can execute an attack chain faster, on average, when using faster weapons. In other words, a 4-skill chain will usually take longer to execute with a 2H weapon than with a 1H weapon or two fast dual-wield weapons.
Note that there is also variation in the attack animation speeds among 1H weapons, so some are faster than others. Likewise, there is variation in the animation speeds among 2H weapons.
The net result is that with a faster weapon, you will tend to burn down your power bar faster, simply because you are able to chain your skills faster.
The DPS stat is generally the most important if you nuke more than you use melee skills
If the skills you use most often during a fight are DD nukes or other "caster" type skills such as the Minstrel's heals/buffs, and you use very few weapon-based skills, then you might get more mileage out of a weapon setup that offers the highest DPS value. This is because most of your actually weapon attacks (if you're even in weapon range) will be auto-attacks in between your queued-up nukes/heals/etc.
The Avg Damage stat is generally the most important for DPS classes (not Guardians or Burglars)
If you mostly use weapon-based skills that apply "main hand", "off-hand" and "ranged weapon" damage, you might often be better off with a given weapon that is lower DPS than another one.
What you really care about instead is the weapon's Avg Damage stat (remember, you have to calculate this for yourself--it's not directly shown in a tooltip).
You always want the weapon with the highest Avg Damage stat in your main hand slot and your ranged weapon slot, because this will yield the highest overall damage from your weapon-based skills.
The Max Damage stat is generally the most important for Burglars
If the weapon skills you use most talk about "max damage" in the tooltip for the skill, then you generally want a weapon with the highest max damage stat in your main hand, regardless of it's Speed or DPS values.
Fast weapons are generally best in the off-hand slot for all dual-wielding classes
For all dual-wielding DPS classes, most of your bonus damage from weapon-based skills comes from the main-hand weapon. (For example, a given skill might give you 2x main-hand and 1x off-hand damage, or 3x main-hand and no off-hand at all, etc.) Unfortunately, all of the high Avg Damage and high Max Damage weapons that you want in your main-hand slot are typically very slow.
It's a common practice, therefore, to equip a very fast weapon in your off-hand slot (regardless of its Avg Damage or Max Damage) to lower your overall effective Speed value (which makes your autoattack cycle faster).
Fervour cost for Champions depends on whether you are dual-wielding
Many Champion skills have a "Fervour" cost, and this cost varies depending on whether you're dual-wielding or not.
- If you are dual-wielding, the Fervour cost of skills like Savage Strikes, Brutal Strikes, Exchange of Blows, etc. are lower, with a flat cost like "3 Fervour"
- If you are wielding 1H only, 1H + Shield, or 2H, then the Fervour cost of these skills is higher, with a cost that says "Requires at least 4 Fervour, but Removes 3 from Fervour"
When to use 2H weapons
Because of the preceding guidelines, the classes that can use 2H weapons will typically do more damage overall with a 2H weapon, because they have a higher Avg Damage value and therefore your weapon-based skill bonuses are usually higher. This is especially true for the skills that do multiple main-hand "swings".
For this reason, soloing will generally go faster and better if you use 2H weapons. However, guardians should stick with 1H weaps and a shield whenever they are in a fellowship for two important reasons:
- Your shield attacks are a huge component of your threat generation.
- Your 1H weapons typically have faster animation times and therefore enable you to chain your skills faster, which can mean faster threat generationon your part.
Even when soloing, you might choose to stick with a 1H weapon and shield versus mobs that disarm you a lot, because you can still use shield-based skills when you are disarmed.
Cooldowns, induction times, and the auto-attack cycle
(Thanks to A99Barnsey and Brat for this addition)
Speed relates only to the rate at which your auto-attack "ticks" occur. The individual cooldowns on skills, as well as the global skill cooldown, are not related to weapon Speed in any way. However, the induction time of a skill essentially suspends the auto-attack cycle. Once the induction time is over, the auto-attack cycle resumes.
You cannot really suspend auto-attacks indefinitely, however, because of the global cooldown and because of individual skill cooldowns. The global cooldown timer provides a "window of opportunity" for a suspended auto-attack tick to fire. Likewise, if the next-queued skill in your attack chain is still on its individual cooldown timer, this provides another window of opportunity for auto-attack ticks to fire.
The bottom line is that if you're not worried about AE damage or effects (disease, etc.) from the foe you're fighting, even nuker classes can add more damage by getting into melee range and letting some auto-attack ticks add some damage.
A final note on the fast versus slow debate
(Thanks to A99barnsey and Brat for reminding me about this)
In every MMO we see a debate about faster weapons versus slower weapons. LOTRO weapon speed seems to work more or less on the same principles as AC and AC2, which means that:
- In a theoretically long fight, auto-attack damage from a fast weapon versus a slow weapon that both have the same exact DPS will be equal.
- In short fights, however, the faster weapon always does more reliable and consistent damage and is therefore better for things like PvP where whiffing one of your big 2H hits can make you lose the damage "race" in a relatively short fight. Yes, a lucky streak with the slower weapon will do more damage but in general for short fights the faster weapon has better odds for doing the most damage within that short time period. I'm not going to rehash the math for this; it's been proven time and again even though this fact seems counterintuitive at first.
What is not entirely clear yet in LOTRO is how armor mitigation works, and that has a big effect on whether faster weapons are actually better. Based on the anecdotal observations from others, I'm guessing that armor mitigation also works like it did in AC2, which means that harder-hitting, but slower, weapons ultimately do more damage overall. In AC2, for example, the Defender class quickly learned that the top-tier "flurry"-type skill (multiple swings from one attack) didn't do nearly as much burst damage as the top-tier "big hit"-type skill . The reason was that the armor mitigation mechanics subtracted the same exact value from every weapon attack, and faster but smaller attacks had most of their value "absorbed" by the armor mitigation. The amount mitigated from the big hits was proportionally much smaller, so more damage got through past the mitigation.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and make an educated guess, therefore, that armor mitigation in LOTRO probably entails a flat absorption amount rather than a scaling percentage of absorbtion. I could be wrong though! If I'm right, it means that against high-armor targets your auto-attack damage will generally be better with a hard-hitting 2H weapon than a faster but equal DPS weapon.
Another aspect of the fast versus slow debate that is unique to LOTRO is the lack of understanding we currently have about power regeneration from cumulative group buffs. For the DPS classes, the bonus damage from many of your weapon-based skills is based more on all the "extra swings" those skills confer and less on the +damage component. For these skills only, a faster weapon can generate more of that "extra swing" damage over time in a really long fight. The problem is that using a faster weapon to gain this higher damage output from your "extra swings" will burn out all your power long before the fight is over.
Because of the power burn-out issues, it's not easy to calculate which weapon Speed might be better for attack chains comprising mostly those "extra swing" style skills. Intuitively, though, if your fellowship is somehow generating a ton of extra power regen during battle, you should be able to do more damage over the course of a long fight with a faster weapon. Really, though, this is a judgement call and the anecdotal evidence so far points to the slower 2H weapons being superior damage over time in most regards.