What is it with LOTRO and alts?

The grass is always greener in The Shire

The other day, Syp over at Bio Break wrote a blog post about what he’s calling S.O.S., or Start Over Syndrome. I like this term a lot better than “altaholism,” which seemed funnier before I knew people who struggled with actual alcoholism. Can we, as an MMO subculture, switch to this term? Thanks. 

Anyway, it’s funny because I’ve been feeling the same urge in the same game lately. I feel guilty that my highest level character is currently outleveling Mirkwood, and yet I’m also mixing in leveling old content on my 50ish Burglar and 25ish Guardian. 

This made me think, what is it about this game that drives me, and Syp too apparently, to make so many alts? Of all the MMOs I’ve sunk a lot of time into, this is probably the one with the most content I haven’t seen, the slowest progression, and the most linear story path (though that’s changing a little). Logically, I am actively disincentivized to make alts in this game. 

I can’t speak for my esteemed colleague, but I think, for me, the above arguments against alting are some of what pushes me to make alts. I know that there is a ton of story content in this game, and I want to experience it with a character I really like. I know it’s going to take me years to get a character to endgame at the pace at which I move through this game, even if I focus on just one, so I want to be sure it’s the class that fits me best. And I know that, once I do it once, any subsequent characters are just going to be experiencing the exact same content with no real agency to make different choices. 

Like Syp, I’m also in a bit of a holding pattern till the new class/race combos drop. At first I was pumped to play a Hobbit Lore-Master, but then I took my old LM from Anor for a spin (did I really level him to 40?) and remembered how bad I am at playing that class. I died… several times… in a very short period of time. I’m sure it’ll come back to me better if I level a character from scratch instead of picking up one I haven’t played in years, but it was discouraging. 

Then I remembered that Dwarves are also getting access to Captain! I was a Cappy main on Gladden for quite a while, until I made the mistake of boosting her to Mordor, and, between the awkward way this game does boosts and the slog that is Mordor, I never played her again. Then I played a lot of Cappy on Shadowfax, before deciding that Legendary servers just aren’t for me. So I think it’s high time to start a new one on Gladden. I’ve always like LotR Dwarves, especially after playing through Moria. For whatever reason I haven’t made more than a couple of them, maybe because a lot of their cosmetic options, both Longbeards and Stout-Axes, are unappealing to me. Not that there aren’t any options I like, it’s just that many of my dwarves end up looking same-y.

Why is it that sometimes my favorite pastimes, which are supposed to be relaxing, end up giving me anxiety? Is that just me, or is this a thing? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve logged into an MMO, only to stare at the character selection screen for a while, not be able to decide who to play, then logged out. And yet, sometimes when I decide to buckle down and ignore the possibility of playing any other characters, I get burnt out even faster.

I don’t have an answer to this conundrum. I just know that S.O.S. is real.