Choosing a Class, Part 2: Grouping
Getting a GroupThere's good news on this front. LOTRO's class balance is quite good, and all classes are useful and desired in groups and raids. Whether you'll get a spot in a group is more often a question of supply and demand. Tanks and healers are usually in shortest supply, while damage classes -- especially Hunter and Champion -- are over-abundant. This generality may not apply on your server; watch GLFF to get a feel for which classes are most needed.
Will You Like Your Role?If you play your group role well you shouldn't have much trouble finding groups, even with a popular class. The real question is, will you enjoy the role your group expects you to do? Some classes play differently in a group than when soloing. I mentioned in the previous article that I love to solo my Rune-keeper in damage mode. When I join a group, however, I'm often asked to main-heal instead. I enjoy healing so it's not a problem, but I know other Rune-keepers who hate to heal and have a harder time getting into groups because of it.
The rest of this article describes what groups typically expect from each class. These are broad generalizations intended to give new players a glimpse into how the class roles are regarded in the upper levels. Other players will usually tolerate you playing a different role in a group, especially when you lead the group yourself.
Damage DealersDamage roles are the easiest, with Hunter being one of the easiest classes to play in a group. Likewise Rune-keeper is easy to play in a damage role. Both classes must actively manage their threat. Occasionally, Hunters will be asked to clear poison effects and do a little crowd control (CC) with Bard's Arrow, Rain of Thorns, or Distracting Shot, while RKs will be asked to interrupt casters or clear corruptions with with Final Words, or use group damage avoidance skills like Do Not Fall to Storm. (See below for more discussion of the RK healing role.)
The Champion role requires a little more skill to be effective in a group. Champs are often invited to groups not only for their excellent damage, but also to interrupt mob skills using Clobber -- often essential to win hard fights. Some groups also expect champs to help manage threat by using their Rising Ire skill to pull threat from a healer or damage class and Ebbing Ire drop it onto the tank. Occasionally, you'll be asked to off-tank.
TanksGuardians and Wardens are almost always expected to tank in groups, and that's a challenging job in LOTRO. Maintaining threat on several mobs while keeping mitigation skills in play requires active use of a wide range of skills for both classes, not to mention the cooperation of the rest of the group. Guardians have threat skills like Engage, Challenge and Challenge the Darkness to grab the attention of mobs quickly, whereas Wardens generally build threat over time. Warden tanks may have a harder time in groups where other players fail to manage their threat early in the fight.
Wardens also excel at interrupting mobs with The Boot, clearing corruptions with Reversal, and off-healing with Conviction, and may be included in groups or raids in a support role.
HealersBallad of War is exceptional) and slow-casting, large, direct heals. They have two excellent emergency group heals: Fellowship's Heart and Triumphant Spirit, and a good in-combat rez: Rally! Minstrels are excellent main-healers in nearly every situation, but can struggle where they can't stand still long enough to cast their heals.
Rune-keepers buffs can reduce incoming damage and increase healing received. Rune-keeper healing is more complex and challenging than Minstrel healing, but effective if done skillfully. Rune-keeper heals (mostly heals-over-time, aka "HoTs") become more powerful as the fight progresses. So, like Warden, they can struggle in groups where members fail to manage their threat early in the fight. RKs have two emergency group heals, Essay of Exaltation and That Which Does Not Kill Us, but they aren't as potent as the Minstrel's emergency heals. Unlike Minstrel, however, they are able to heal effectively while on the move. The Rune-keeper in-combat rez Shall Not Fall This Day is difficult to use reliably.
SupportBurglars, Lore-masters and captains are "special sauce" classes in groups: they make other classes better. Tanks tank better, healers heal better, and DPSers hit harder with these classes in the mix.
Burglars debuff each target then contribute damage until the situation calls for an interrupt, corruption removal, Fellowship Manuever (FM), or CC. Well-played burglars time their tricks and FMs for best tactical effect to disable the target at a critical moment, or provide extra damage, morale or power when needed via FMs.
Power of Knowledge into their busy rotation.
Captains spend a minute every half hour buffing the members of the group. They also cast a group buff before each fight and healing or damage buffs on a selected group member throughout the fight. As mobs die, Captains use their Rallying Cry skill to help heal the group. Otherwise the captain is doing spot-healing and damage, ready to help the group out with the In Harm's Way survivability buff if needed. Captains have two excellent in-combat rezzes, Cry of Vengeance and Escape from Darkness, so this duty usually falls to them.