LOTRO: A Traveler's Guide to Moria
(this article is in progress)
By Brasse, Guardian of Khazad-dum
Lord of the Rings Online draws from one of the greatest literary works of the previous century. The developers at Turbine honor this legacy, knowing that around every corner is a Tolkien scholar running about the lands and checking. Is this mountain in the right position? Does the distance between these two cities seem plausible? Are there precisely 200 steps on a particular stairway as described by the prose? The answer has invariably been yes, although certain liberties are taken for the sake of gameplay.
The main draw for many in Lord of the Rings Online has been the immersive experience that allows players to feel as if they are really in Middle-earth. Moria carries this further than ever before, as Turbine not only recreates the known regions of the ancient Dwarven citadel, but expands upon them in a logical manner, developing regions not seen in the books, and based on hints and general concepts from Tolkien’s lore.
The Water-works, for instance, are not mentioned or even alluded to in Tolkien’s works. How did the Tolkien Estate decide to allow its development? Turbine fully develops an area on paper (including concept art) and then submits it to the Estate for consideration, discussion and approval. “We know things that they’re likely to be okay with, and things that they’re going to want longer conversations about,” said Jeffrey Steefel, LotRO Executive Producer, “We move ahead on faith, knowing that we might have to go back and change something. That doesn’t happen much these days.”
The Estate has come to trust Turbine over the years, and they maintain a very strong relationship. “It wasn’t that way before we took direct control of the license,” grinned Steefel, “We had to earn their trust. Now that we have it, they’re a little more trusting of what we’re doing. We think the players are too. We take a step back to the macro level and we look at everything that Tolkien wrote, and not just literally about what he said about a, b and c, because he leaves lots of things open, like the ‘nameless creatures of the deep.’ If you add up all the things he did say, you get a really good feel for what makes sense, what mythology would exist here, what wouldn’t exist here. Then you make sure the personality comes forth.”
This very brief introduction to the zones of the expansion merely scratches the surface of what there is to do and see in each place. Many dungeons large and small branch off these zones, with some truly interesting creatures, but we will stay on the main paths... for this issue.
Enter the new lands now, if you will…
Galadriel’s Garden, included with the Moria expansion (accessed from Dimril Dale). One is surrounded by an ethereal, dreamlike ambience in this magical place.
Once Khazad-dûm, now Moria
Khazad-dûm was once the greatest of the Dwarven nations, an entire civilization hidden under the Misty Mountains. The Longbeard clan, wealthy and powerful, built and inhabited the place under the rule of Durin I (the Deathless). Their kingdom thrived and expanded for thousands of years. Yet, as the tales tell us, the wealth of Khazad-dûm was founded on the precious metal, mithril. In their endless seeking of this treasure, they opened shafts into the deep earth, releasing nameless evil creatures. Chief among these was a great and terrible Balrog of Morgoth that slew untold numbers of Dwarves, including Durin IV, becoming known as “Durin’s Bane” ever after.
The few Dwarves that survived were driven out. The vast halls and mines began to be populated by the creatures of Sauron: Orcs, Goblins and Trolls. The nameless dark creatures also remained, although rarely venturing to the surface, and thus unknown to the outside world. In the Lord of the Rings Online, the Longbeards attempt to wrest their kingdom back from the darkness, and adventurers are recruited to aid their cause.
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Map of Moria (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
"Not all those who wander are lost."
To reach Moria, you must travel through the land of men known as Eregion, eastward through the foothills of the Misty Mountains. These lands were once inhabited by the Noldor Elves under the rule of Celebrimbor, whose people created the Rings of Power for Sauron (then disguised as Annatar, Lord of Gifts). They were able to save only the three rings of the elves, and in the subsequent devastation of their lands, abandoned Eregion for the safety of Lindon, Lothlorien and Rivendell.
Must see: The dank, foul waters of The Black Pool. It’s actually quite green in daylight, covered with oily patches of algae. You can see the dam the Watcher built across the river in order to create the pool... and the gates of Moria? A pair of Dwarves work steadily to finish clearing the entrance, which is hidden between two trees.
Featured creature: The Watcher in the Waters. Another of the nameless creatures of the deep-earth, released with the Balrog. Battling it is a horrific experience.
Map of Eregion (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
The Great Delving
Cross Durin’s Threshold through the West Gate and you’ll discover an area now well occupied by Dwarves, who recruit your aid to retake Khazad-dûm, the halls of their ancestors. Within a five minutes time traveling, you will encounter ruin, restoration, natural caverns and wandering servants of Sauron. You’ll know right away that you are in Moria. Be sure to make friends with the Stablemaster here and at all stops along the way, their routes traverse Moria with speed when time is of the essence.
Must see: The grand entry hall –gaze across at the selfsame 200 stairs that the Fellowship encountered upon entering Moria. The hall is well lit now, and the Dwarves there are full of confidence, resolve and good cheer. An excellent starting point!
Featured creature: Redhorn Goat. As sturdy and stout as the Dwarves they carry, this creature is unique to Moria, although I’d certainly like to have one with me on all my travels.
Map of The Great Delving (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
Durin’s Way stretches almost the entire width of the ancient citadel. You get the impression that development here was halted as you move from west to east. The great halls and Durin’s garden lead to an outpost that has been established at The Stone Hall. On the eastern side lies a wild, undeveloped area called The Fanged Pit, inhospitable and dark, home to the Merrevil race of winged, demon-like humanoids.
Must see: Tharakh-Bazan. This was Durin’s masterpiece, a delicate subterranean garden, gently illuminated by strategically placed light shafts high above. The place is now sadly overrun with Orcs, but perhaps you can do something about that.
Featured creature: Elder Moria Rider. Typical of the powerful goblins to be found in Moria, the Worg Riders represent a real danger to travelers. It is easy for even a large one to hide in the foliage of the garden, so stroll there with caution… and a really big axe.
Map of Durin's Way (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
"You can only come to the morning through the shadows."
Just outside of the northern gate in Durin’s Way lies Zirakzigil, one of the three great Mountains of Moria. It was once surmounted by Durin’s Tower, which was destroyed in the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Pieces of the tower lie strewn about the snow-covered landscape. The slopes can be treacherous, particularly with the snow blowing into your eyes; be aware that it can be much harder to ascend than it is to slide down! Warg riders, wolves and other fell creatures wander about this small, windswept area, making it a cheerless, although starkly beautiful place. Most travelers scurry back into the halls as soon as they can.
Must see: Durin’s Bane, the still smoldering remains of the great Balrog that Gandalf fought.
Featured creature: The Merrivil race of winged, demonlike humanoids. Nothing is known of their origin, although they are found in the Fanged Pit of Durin’s Way as well.
Map of Zirakzigil (hand-drawn map in progress)
A major Dwarven delving, Silvertine spreads over a large area. Moria Goblins have inhabited much of it, and make their home in the fissured caverns of Gamil-filik. The chasms there are filled with light-emitting crystals, and covered with a solid mesh. Silvertine has many tunnels and rail lines, all spiraling around the central pit. It will take you a while to learn your way around… watch your step and proceed slowly in the dark areas.
Must see: Menem-berej, the central pit. The shaft goes down much further than you can possibly see, supported by a series of massive wooden support structures. Two dungeons are accessed from this area.
Featured creature: Grodbogs are flattened burrowing insects that seem to eat rock, making a jarring sound that you’ll soon become familiar with. They come in three forms: gatherers, warriors, and a queen for each community.
Brasse's Map of Silvertine Lodes
Vast arrays of aqueducts and waterwheels once formed an impressive and efficient network that supplied all of Khazad-dûm, but now many of the structures are broken, collapsed into the Drowned Deeps. The returning Dwarves have put at least a few of the waterwheels back in action, near their outpost, which they fondly dubbed “The Rotting Cellar.” Goblin-kind also roam the area, Fell-spiders hold the northwest, and an incursion of deep-fungus lies along the eastern edge of the cavern. The Water-works holds entrances to dangerous areas such as Harâzgund, the Lair of the Watcher.
Must see: Durin’s Beard, a powerful waterfall issuing from a carved Dwarven head, just northeast of the Dwarven outpost, near the entrance to Silvertine Lodes. You can also see the working waterwheels and chutes from this area, a most impressive sight.
Featured creature: Deep-toads are found only within the lower levels of the Waterworks. Pale and fleshy, large enough to eat the small folk whole.
Brasse's Map of The Water-works
"Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door."
Once a thriving Dwarven city, Zelem-melek now resembles a mausoleum, patrolled by Orcs and Goblins. These massive buildings once housed a thriving economic center and represented the height of Dwarven development. Seeking to reclaim it once more, the Longbeards have set up a defensive position in The Twenty-First Hall, where they work to restore the great pillars while they dream of the future. The creatures of Sauron wholly control the southern portion of the ancient city, although it is possible to bypass their main encampments if you know the way.
Must see: The Great Hall of Durin, a masterwork of stonework and design, heavily influenced by the growing friendship between the Dwarves and Noldor Elves in that ancient time. This type of highly decorative craftsmanship is not seen anywhere else in Moria.
Featured creature: Moria Keeper, a Goblin fighter with three trained bats; not something you want to come up against in the dark.
Map of Zelem-melek (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
Shades of brown characterize this mining cavern. The dull appearance belies the fact that mithril, the most precious of all metals, was mined here. A thin haze of dust colors the air and limits vision to some extent, but never so much as to hide the presence of Orcs in the area. Redhorn Goats were originally bred for use in this area, but any remaining were eaten by marauders long ago.
Must see: As a strictly utilitarian mine, there are not many grand sites in the Redhorn Lodes, unless of course you are a miner by nature, in which case you’ll think it glorious. Others may appreciate the grandiose structure of the stairs leading to The Ruined Gate, where arrays of golden crystal lights battle the ever present fine dust.
Featured creature: Orcs. You will see plenty of Orcs. They are not particularly industrious, and merely seem to be awaiting orders... and for dinner to wander by.
Map of Redhorn Lodes (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
The Flaming Deeps
The Forges of Khazad-dûm do not lie idle. Once the heart of Dwarven industry, with imposing structures carved from all manner of stone, the Flaming Deeps are now home to the powerful and savage Ghâsh-hai clan of Orcs. Their nature and constant proximity to the heavy metals and lava have twisted them into new forms unseen outside of Moria. With unswerving devotion to Sauron and the Balrog, these Fire Orcs have excavated new tunnels in the region, delving deeper toward the dark places. The Dwarven outpost of Anazârmekhem is the only area of safety here.
Must see: Gate of the Seven Fathers, a soaring architectural homage to the ancestors of all Dwarves, who were originally formed by Aulë The Maker, in his impatience to see the Children of Ilúvatar (the Elves).
Featured creature: The Fiery Grim, purely elemental forces, burn all that they touch. They are unthinking beings, and probably not evil… but certainly not good.
Map of The Flaming Deeps (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
"You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
Foundations of Stone
The Foundations of Stone are the deepest of Moria’s caverns, and you will be one of few beings ever to see the bottom of the Endless Stair. Sadly, part of the walkway has been blocked by a magma fall, so you can no longer follow it all the way up. The area has a purplish cast to it, the result of a permeating fungus that causes living creatures to mutate. The Globsnaga Orcs and Trolls here all bear the marks of this infection, and have adapted to it over the centuries.
Must see: The Bridge Shard. While there are many interesting things to see here, this image shows an unusual detail… peer hard and you can just make out what appears to be a grey, pointed hat.
Featured creature: The Snarling Overseer is the first of the fell, eyeless creatures you’ll encounter here. While varying somewhat in form, all rely on sonic communication rather than sight.
Map of Foundations of Stone (hand-drawn map in progress)
The easternmost of Moria’s regions, Nud Melek has undergone many changes. This is the site where Gandalf challenged the great Balrog, Durin’s Bane, to allow the rest of the Fellowship to flee through the East Gate. A new path has been made around the north of the bottomless chasm to allow access to the gate, and much of the hall is still intact. Here the Dwarves cunningly carved giant trees of stone, in honor of the Noldor Elves who dwell to the east. Largzurm Orcs and a smattering of Goblins now inhabit the area, which explains the stench.
Must see: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm. It has not been rebuilt, and you may peer over the edge into the depths, if you dare.
Featured creature: Deep-crawlers. These may be full-grown creatures or larval forms of something yet unknown; in either case, they are remarkably nasty. Luckily they also glow, and so are easily seen and avoided.
Map of Nud-Melek (hand-drawn map not begun yet)
Just outside of the Eastern Gate of Moria you’ll encounter a narrow valley stretching eastward. The edges of the valley are dotted with several Orc encampments, two of which are quite sizable—they seek to build their forces enough to challenge the Lady of Lothórien, Galadriel. When you come across Mirrormere, you will know you are close to your goal. A weathered, almost unrecognizable statue of Durin I still overlooks the lake, although lamentably surrounded by Orcs in this day. The road leading southeastward, parallel to the river Celebrant, takes you to Nimrodel, the edge of the golden woods. Entry to Lothórien itself will come some time in the future, although the noble of spirit may gain entry to Caras Galadhon, Galadriel’s Garden.
Must see: Mirrormere, the lake that reflects starlight, even in brightest daytime.
Featured creature: Lórien Elves are first seen here, among the majestic golden Mallorn trees. They guard the forest from incursions by Sauron’s minions.
Map of Dimrill Dale (hand-drawn map in progress)
YET TO COME: