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Enhancing your LotRO Experience: A Primer on Plug-ins

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The following is a 2012 blog entry saved for posterity.

Most people with any experience in PC gaming understand how a dedicated community of modders can take an already great game to unprecedented heights (Falcon BMS), or even greatness from more humble beginnings (FS-WW1 from Screaming Demons). The same holds true with MMOs. Anybody with experience in World of Warcraft has likely heard of Curse, an integrated plug-in manager that will help you find everything from auction price trends, quest assists, new maps, and just about anything you would want (short of cheating) to help you with your WoW experience. LotRO's plug-in capability, on the other hand, is more limited and relied on chat line slash commands to load and manage plug-ins. Additionally, all LotRO plug-ins had to be manually downloaded, installed, and maintained, thus requiring some knowledge of file management (and a bit of LUA scripting knowledge didn't hurt either).

Until now.

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The release of Update 5 added an integrated Plug-in manager to the LotRO character interface (shown in the screenshot above), which at least takes away the requirement for slash commands for loading plug-ins (though many plugins still rely on slash commands for interaction). But until Curse supports LotRO (something they were teasing us about for quite some time), we're still stuck with manual installations. With different versions of plug-ins being updated after new updates, and my maintaining two separate LotRO installs, this becomes quite a pain.

Enter LotRO Plug-in Compendium.

I don't intend to review this program (CSTM already does an admirable job), but I will say that this is the LotRO answer to Curse. With a few exceptions, the LotRO Plug-in Compendium is a one-stop shop for all LotRO plug-ins. If you are at all interested in the plug-ins that the LotRO community has to offer, then download and install this program before reading further.

Once you have installed the LotRO Plug-in Compendium, I will address what I consider to be plug-ins that everybody should use, as well as in some high quality plug-ins that most people would find useful.

The Mandatory Plug-ins
If you use plug-ins, don't leave your Middle-earth home without these.

Bootstrap
Bootstrap is a plug-in that manages other plug-ins in game. This is the logical evolution of the classic "manager" plug-in, with enhancements that go well beyond batch loading. For instance, there may be some plug-ins that have situational use (Legendary Item Planner, or Inn of the Forsaken puzzle solver) that you don't need to load every time (and thereby spamming your screen on start-up). Bootstrap has a pop-up menu (seen in the lower left hand corner of the following screenshot) that allows you to load your situational plug-ins, or even run them in a specific way (for the plug-ins that rely on the slash commands for use).

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In addition, Bootstrap also has the ability to automatically load plug-ins when it starts up (its original functionality before Update 5). Even with the Update 5 plug-in manager, this ability maintains its usefulness. Plug-ins that involve inventory slots (Bevy O Bars, Kragenslots, etc.) display as blank and can become corrupted when loaded with the default plug-in manager. Running these plug-ins from Bootstrap, as shown in the following screenshot, is as if you input the slash command yourself (which avoids any issues).

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You can see the Bootstrap interface on the right side of the screen, with the green items already loaded. The checked items are the ones that Bootstrap is tasked to load.

Palantir
Palantir is a plug-in that displays your health and power in the center of the screen while you are in combat. Not only do you have better situational awareness of your own state while in a fight, but you actually know when you are being engaged, as the Palantir will appear. This one is a lifesaver. Palantir is also reviewed at CSTM.

Bevy O' Bars
Bevy O Bars is a plug-in that allows for additional on-screen inventory or command slots. The bars are of customizable array dimensions, and can be colored or semi-transparent both in combat, out of combat, or separate settings for both. Bevy O' Bars is shown in the screenshot just above the chat window, and for me is semi-transparent. It will go fully opaque when in combat, or when the mouse cursor hovers over it.

Kragenslots
A great complement to Bevy, Kragenslots allows for additional slots on the screen, but rather than having a custom array, you can have a custom box with multiple selectable items. I use Kragenslots to switch between pocket items, weapons, and other combat items via click-toggle. I also use Kragenslots to manage my mounts, where I need only hover my cursor over the icon and use my mousewheel to select the mount I want.

HugeBag
HugeBag is the first inventory plug-in and bag replacement that successfully works around the item swap bug. This alone gives it my recommendation for mandatory inventory manager. The widget format, colors, sort/merge functions, and status bar are all gravy. Very good gravy. Check out CSTM for a review of HugeBag.

The Highly Recommended Plug-ins
The difference between these plug-ins and those in the previous section is not quality (the plugins are of all high quality), but of usefulness. For example, a lower level Guardian will find the Travel Plug-in less useful than a high level Hunter, but no Hunter should be without it.

Travel
A very good argument could be made that this plug-in belongs in the previous section, as every character will likely be using this eventually. However, for the sub-20 character, focusing on the plug-ins in the previous section is more important. That said, Travel lists all of the quick destinations available in Middle-earth (including up to 8 milestones), and you select which ones are avaiable to you and in what order you prefer. When you want to travel somewhere, just click on the suitcase icon, and your available destinations will be displayed in the format you choose (i.e. list, icon, carousel).

Kragenbars
Useful for some of the more complex classes in LotRO, Kragenbars has a version for almost every character class. Kragenbars will then display context-sensitive icons for the given situation. For example, a minstrel will need to perform certain verses before others, and Kragenbars will manage that (showing only the first verse, then the available second verses, etc.). Not every character class has its plug-in (and its usefulness is debatable for a Warden), but those who have a compatible character class (especially Minstrels and Rune Keepers) should take a look at this.

Moormaps
Despite the implication in the name, Moormaps actually covers just about all of Middle-earth. Moormaps is a map interface separate from the default map that can be opened in a window and annotated. Annotations are currently limited to flagging objects, and there is no "you are here" marker in Moormaps, but the plug-in is still quite useful. One note of caution for laptop users: you will want to have a vertical resolution of at least 1024 in order to use Moormaps.

Mouse Cursor Highlighter Advanced (MCHA)
If you run LotRO in high resolution, consider this plug-in to be mandatory. This will highlight your cursor based on the situation. It is most useful to create a larger cursor in combat, where you really need to know where your cursor is and where it is going right now. MCHA is reviewed at CSTM.


This list of plug-ins is by no means exhaustive. There are plenty of great plug-ins out there, and I use many more plug-ins than what is displayed here. If you have other plug-in suggestions, please note them in the comments. As the title says, this article is a primer to get you started, and the steps you take here may lead to a much more satisfying LotRO experience.

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Some more recommendations a year later:

Palantir II in lieu of Palantir. Continued development by another party.

Kragenbars 2 in lieu of Kragenbars. Again, continued development by another party.

And a new addition to the list:

Hytbold Assistant, which is useful if you want to do the level 85 rebuilding of Hytbold and get the armor that goes with it.

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