Welcome to the first of many Developer Diary installments discussing monster play. We’ve kept the wraps on this aspect of the production for long enough, so here’s your first look behind the curtain at the geography of your monster playground!
Where is the Ettenmoors?
North of Rivendell are the troll-fens where Aragorn’s grandfather, Arador, met his end at the hands of the Hill-trolls dwelling in the Coldfells. Long lost to corruption, the Ettenmoors once served as a home to the kingdom of Rhudaur.
In the north, flowing out of the Misty Mountains, is the Hoarwell River. The great river flows toward the south, becoming impassable until the Last Bridge at the border of the Lone-lands and the Trollshaws. It is rumored that Fallohide Hobbits may once have migrated along the shores of the Hoarwell River, perhaps even making themselves a home along its banks as they journeyed west across the Misty Mountains.
In the Northwest, a terrible peak rises to cast its great shadow far to the east. This mountain, once home to the goblin Golfimbul, is known as Mount Gram and at its foot, the fearsome forces of Angmar have laid claim to the land.
Hope is not yet lost in the Gramsfoot. An Elf, Lainedhel, discontent with Elrond’s choice to trust the power of the Elven-ring Vilya to defend Rivendell from the host pressing through the North Downs into the Ettenmoors, has rallied the Free Peoples of Eriador to the Ettenmoors. Their fortress in the southeast stands as a bastion of Light against the ever-growing darkness.
Areas of the Ettenmoors
The western portion of the Ettenmoors, stretching from Hithlad and the Grimwood Forest in the south to the base of the Misty Mountains in the north and the Hoarwell River in the west, is called the Coldfells. Indigenous life teems throughout the area, bolstered by the presence of the Free Peoples and their allies.
Features: Glân Vraig, Tirith Rhaw, Ost Ringdyr
Though Aragorn’s grandfather was taken by Hill-trolls in the Coldfells, the beasts dragged him back to their camp nestled in the bosom of the Misty Mountains. The lands to the north, stretching along the shelf of the Misty Mountains, have been called Arador’s End ever since. Features: Grothum, Isendeep Mine
A valley through which the great Hoarwell River flows, Hoardale is the seat of Tol Ascarnen, a long-ruined keep once held by the kingdom of Rhudaur. The Hoarwell River here cascades from the edge of the Misty Mountains in a massive waterfall, providing the war-torn land with a beautiful backdrop. Features: Tol Ascarnen
In the south, with the Coldfells at its eastern border and the Steps of Gram to its northwest, you will find Hithlad, and the Grimwood Forest. Features: Grimwood Lumber Camp, Hoarhallow
Steps of Gram
Moors rise in ever-increasing swells in the shadow of Mount Gram. The land here is harsh, rocky, and sparsely covered with trees.
Features: Dâr-gazag, Gramsfoot, Lugazag
Places in the Ettenmoors
At the southeast edge of the Ettenmoors, the Free Peoples established a fortress. The unwavering stand taken at the forest’s edge gives Angmar’s army little chance to force the Free Peoples from the holding. It is here that the staging ground for the war against the North begins. The fortress is of Elven make and stands out as a beautiful reminder of the lands that lay south of the forsaken and twisted area of the Ettenmoors.
Nestled far to the east, surrounded by a deep trench with only a few paths into its heart, Ost Ringdyr stands as the main keep of the Free Peoples. It is from here that the leaders of the Free Peoples army have reached out to the Eagles and Bears in the north to stand against the tide of Darkness swelling from Angmar.
Atop a rise to the west of Ost Ringdyr, but not yet to the eastern bank of the Hoarwell, you will find Tirith Rhaw’s silhouette rising above the treeline. This tower affords the Free Peoples a long view of the forest, and allows them to see down to the waterway.
Central to the Ettenmoors and positioned on an island in the middle of the Hoarwell River, Tol Ascarnen is a defensible stronghold. Bridges lead to the island from the east and from the west, and forces may be able to find purchase through the river. To the north, a magnificent waterfall towers high above the fortress at the foothills of the Misty Mountains and Arador’s End.
Long ago, Fallohide Hobbits made their way over the Misty Mountains and through the wilds north of the Trollshaws, following the Hoarwell River as they traveled. Many pressed on into the lands further west, finding themselves at last in the gentle bosom of what would become The Shire. Some, more adventurous and accustomed to the Big Folk of Rhudaur who had not yet turned to villainy, chose a secluded area beneath the heavy cover of the Grimwood in Hithlad. There, these intrepid Hobbits have lived in seclusion and general safety for centuries.
While searching the north for signs of the enemy, at the behest of Elrond, Lainedhel discovered both the Hobbit village and a force from Angmar pressing through the Ettenmoors. Upon returning to Rivendell, Lainedhal made his report on the forces he discovered far to the north. Elrond saw the forces as no threat to Rivendell and wished no one to interfere with their plans, but the innocence of the Hobbits spoke to the Elf’s heart, so he organized a force to enter the Ettenmoors and protect the Little Folk from the ravening hordes of Angmar.
Grimwood Lumber Camp
The Hobbits of Hoarhallow are primarily gardeners and hunters. A goodly number were also builders, and until the arrival of Angmar’s army they had a thriving lumber camp in the Grimwood. Now the camp is constantly under siege as the Free Peoples and Angmar fight for control of the location and the rich wood that it supplies.
A grim shadow is cast by this ruined tower at the foot of the Steps of Gram. From within the walls of this tower, Angmar’s forces send raiding forces into the Ettenmoors in search of food and sport. Lugazag is located very near the Hobbits’ village at Hoarhallow, and serves as the main threat to the furry-footed folk.
Long ago, it may have been a troll-hollow; now, the Isendeep is a contested area, where the Free Peoples fight Angmar’s army for precious metal resources. Its location near the goblin village of Grothum makes holding the location difficult for the Free Peoples. Besides the threat from goblins and other lurking beasts of the mountains, one must be on the watch for trolls at all times.
Mount Gram, once the dwelling-place of Golfimbul and now of the Snowreap goblins, serves as the true home for the goblins of Grothum. Moving from the relative safety of the great mountain to the border of the Isendeep was by the order of the mighty warriors of Angmar, and like the good servants they are, the goblins obeyed it. The village stands far to the northeast of the Hobbit village, above the mountain source of the mighty Hoarwell.
In the far west, the rise and fall of the moors creates natural channels through the landscape. At the crest of a mighty hill, Angmar’s army discovered the shell of a fortress that once belonged to Rhudaur. Digging into the ruins, they fortified their position within and now hold this as their stronghold, standing in opposition to the Free Peoples at Ost Ringdyr.
Wooden walls, Warg-guardians, and a war-host from Angmar rest at the foot of Mount Gram. From here, the great Uruk War-tyrant Akúlhun commands the forces of Angmar. The fortress is well-guarded and nearly impenetrable. From this base of power, War-leaders launch their assaults against the Free Peoples and seek to drive them from the land to make ready their war-machines for an invasion of lower Eriador.
Allan "Orion" Maki hails from parts unknown. He spent his youth cradled in the company of the Knights of Ni and has no problem saying "Ni" to old women or Floon Beetle. Schooled by life, he rescued Princess Peach, discovered Samus Aran's identity and saved Zelda – all before the age of sixteen. By twenty, he had crumbled the Roman Empire, sailed along the Spanish Main and shot the Red Baron out of the sky.
After many failed attempts at becoming the uncontested ruler of the universe, he accepted the position of OCR on a little game named Asheron's Call. Soon after, he moved into a role as designer finishing his tenure on the project as the Lead Designer, before moving to DDO and finally to LOTRO, where he now serves as a Content Designer. His favorite color is purple – royal purple not lilac, though lilacs smell nice in spring – his favorite movie of all time is Citizen Kane and he wears a size 10 ½ shoe.