…what follows is a response to a dear friend’s query about our opinions concerning the Overlords’ decision to tear down gateways.  The gateways that once stood to protect all but the greatest of heroes from the gravest of foes; gateways that allowed only those who had earned relics of olden times, relics that gleamed with a bright Radiance, to pass…

I wish I had been able to reply to your question to the Moot last night concerning feelings about no longer needing radiant armor for exploring some of the depths, Chief.  Unfortunately, I was already involved in a couple of conversations, and that is a very risky thing for me!   I have heard this as well and have formed an opinion about it.  At the risk of stepping on many toes, and please forgive me if I do, I feel that this is a tragic mistake, and will result in unnumbered adventures that will never take place and would-be adventurers that never will be.  Let me explain:

When the dwarves set out to retake their lost home, they knew it would not be easy.  They sent out Scouts who, with great peril, managed to assess much of the depths and recover the smallest of treasures lost long ago.  They decided to share these things with those that would aid them, but wisely realized the great risk those who endeavored to do so would undertake.  They decided to give these treasures, this radiant armor we speak of, in portions and grades, knowing that no one would willingly choose the folly of adventuring into the deepest places without first being girded in the radiance to help them keep heart.

They first began by rewarding those who had succeeded in driving off the scum in each particular area they designated with a specific piece of radiant armor.  Sweeping the Grand Stairs was rewarded by a particular piece of armor; boots I believe they were.  Then, one was led to the area the dwarven scouts assessed as more perilous than the Stairs, but the safest of those left for the next piece, and so on.  Success in The Forges of Khazad-Dum, Fil Gashan, the 16th Hall, Skumfil and the Dark Delvings were each rewarded with a different piece of armor, which one could equip to give them heart, enabling them to venture into the most perilous places, such as the Vile Maw, Dar Narboogoo, or however it is pronounced, and the like.

Many railed against the dwarves’ system, however.  They understandably thought that, since they were offering their time and skill, they should be able to do so freely, and in their own way.  “Give us the radiance to let us help you now!” they cried.  “Do not make us grind away the lesser nasties when there are greater foes to be fought!”  “Do not make us earn these medallions, wasting our time and keeping us from more important matters at hand!” they despaired.  Eventually, the dwarves gave in and set up a new system.  They decided to award a number of radiant medallions to any who drove the nasties from any of the aforementioned areas, rather than asking for them to each be done in turn.  This is a version of removing the need for radiance armor entirely, and it was a dreadful mistake, in my opinion.

You see, there is a currency worth so much more than the currency of radiance.  It is the currency of experience and of learning.  That currency is hard earned and can not truly ever be bought, save with time, hard work, and the constant need to peer into our inner looking-glass, trying to find a way to better ourselves.  I can only speak from the perspective of being a Scout, but I can truly say that, in each and every one of the dark places mentioned above, I bettered my craft, and not insignificantly.  Such challenges force each one of us to either become more adept, and in many different ways, or to forsake them altogether for other things, whatever they may be.  And there is nothing wrong with that in the slightest!  Not all are meant for such things, and they are the fortunate ones, I think.  We each decide, for our own reasons, when and why we either should or must undertake such perilous tasks, as well as when and why to leave them behind.  Removing the need to find victory in these dark halls removes the need to earn the currency of experience and will leave those who venture into the Vile Maw and other places of great darkness very, very poor, indeed.  Let me not so briefly explain my experience with this.

I had ventured by myself for the longest time and never set foot in the more dangerous places in the West.  I knew of the existence of the Great Barrow, Fornost, the Card Dunes, and the like, but I was off aiding the way-watchers with things and figured there would be time for such things later on.  I made my way to Khazad-Dum and began to aid the dwarves there.  Finally, some put out a call for aid in the Grand Stairs.  I had heard stories of this wretched place and was very fearful of going, but decided it was time to lend my aid to others, as many can do things that one alone cannot.

We came to the Stairs and ventured down to a drawbridge, where we encounted a very nasty Uruk-hai.  I trembled with the fear he evoked from me, and he fed on that fear, using it to drive us all running out of the Stairs.  Those I was with tried to explain to me how he was doing so, and that I should use a draught to embolden myself at such times, but I was overcome with embarassment and grief over causing our failure.  I had never needed such draughts in my scouting before and had long ago stopped hoarding them.  I did not really understand what had happened and was too upset to figure it out.  I asked them to release me from our fellowship.  They begged me to stay, saying that there were so few around at the time, that they would have a very difficult time finding another to aid them.  I would not relent in my request, and they grudgingly let me go.  I cried [both in-game and out] and made a promise to myself that I would never, ever, subject myself to such an experience again.

Of all the shameful things I have done in this land, this is probably the one I most regret.  To this day, I still apologize to them, whenever we cross paths.  I let everyone down, myself most of all.

Thankfully, I do not always keep my promises!  Not long after I came to know you all, Master Tarn began mustering folk to aid in the cause of reclaiming Khazad-Dum, and I decided to give it another try.  Through time and experience, I learned to listen to the arrogant taunts of the creeps and take whatever advantage I could from them.  We made our way to Igash, where he and his minions unleashed such destruction upon us that we fled far, far away.  I realized it was hopeless.  I knew, in my heart, with the utmost certainty, that there was no way we could prevail against such a foe without the greatest weapons and armor in all of Middle-Earth.  We tried, again and again, and each time were driven away.  But, as we tried again and again, I began to see openings, things I might try when the next chance came.  Thankfully, Master Tarn is tireless, and those chances were there.

Then it happened.  One day, it was us standing in Igash’s hall at the end, having driven them away for once!  It is a most special thing when friends work together to overcome adversity.  I haven’t the words to express how special that moment was to me, how close I felt to those who had come through that fire with me, nor how happy I was to have truly *earned* that coin!  Those boots shined with an incredible radiance, indeed!

This moment and those lessons would likely never have happened had the dwarves not required us to venture into the Stairs to earn that coin, had the need for Radiance not existed.

These things happened to me all over again in other dark places.  Had I never ventured into the Forges of Khazad-Dum, I may never had truly learned how important it to remember that one’s environment can be just as deadly, or even more so, than any living foe.  It was a hard-won lesson, but I learned.  It was there I learned of another deadly foe, that of time.  We were forced to work our way down to the Forge quickly, else it could never be shut off in time to be saved.  It was a juggling act, and a very difficult one, but I had begun to learn the tools that would let me keep all these things from crashing down onto me and those of my fellowship.  When we finally won victory in the Forges, we did what I thought to be impossible.  My new tunic shone with a radiant luster I could not believe!  I thought I had become a Scout of the highest order.  I mean, really, how could any other venture be more challenging, right?

Oh, I forgot to say that this moment and those lessons would likely never have happened had the dwarves not required us to venture into the Forges to earn that coin, had the need for Radiance not existed.

Then we moved on to Fil Gashan.  The horrors, including the stench from the mess hall, cannot truly be explained.  It was here where I learned how to sneak around the few to engage the many.  And there were so many!  Learning to deal with hordes of things is something that has benefited me ever since, and I will always look back to my time in Fil Gashan with pride at having learned so there.

I learned another critical lesson there as well.  I have a gift for addling my friends with my silliness, and it is a gift that comes all too naturally!  It was in Fil Gashan where I learned how critical such a skill can be when used against one’s foes!  To slacken the mind, to confuse and befuddle an enemy just as he is about to unleash a deadly attack is an amazing tool, one that the success of an endeavor may very well come down to.  It was in Fil Gashan where I honed this craft, and I would likely still be only befuddling friends were I never to have ventured there.  The gloves the dwarves gifted me in honor of our success there shone very brightly, indeed!

This moment and those lessons would likely never have happened had the dwarves not required us to venture into Fil Gashan to earn that coin, had the need for Radiance not existed.

“Well done, all!” Master Tarn said.  “Now that we have taken care of the easier places, let us delve further.”  I thought he was jesting, of course.

It was in Skumfil where I learned two incredibly valuable lessons.  While the nasty Kergrim there who made to summon more to them in that vile place did not care much for my riddles, I came to realize that, with a bit of a trick and a disabling gamble, I could evoke much of the same confusion!  Realizing this got me thinking about how I might play more tricks upon my foes, and do so more efficiently.  Up until that point, I never really thought to play tricks on any foe, save the one we were currently beating on.

The other thing, something that has become absolutely crucial to my Scouting, was something I learned in the Spider Pit below.  We fled so many times from there!  On most every occasion, some with us wished to use dishonest tricks or ways to make the challenge much easier.  But to do so artificially would have been to do so without merit, for what would be have learned from the experience?  In other places, where no such tricks can be brought to bear, what would we do?

The spiders in the pit are numberless, and they do not ever stop in their pursuit to end any who venture into their lair.  We had to fight our way across, slowly, and without rest.  It was here, when I had thrown all my marbles to the ground to create openings for our fellowship, when I had exploited all the openings I could find and tripped as many as I could, until my shins would let me do no more, that I learned to see openings that I never thought were there.  I learned to make my own openings, through chance and repetition, that would sustain our fellowship where, otherwise, we would have been lost.

I tell you, truly, though I never voiced it at the time, that I had agreed with those who wished to use the cheaper tactics when they said that, without them, it was simply impossible to make it through the Spider Pit.  I believed it, with all of my heart.  One day, though, we did it!  And a time later, we did it with only five of us!  Of all the special moments I have experienced in these lands, this one is, perhaps, the most special.  It was a long time coming, and so worthwhile in the end!  The things I took from it, and my time there, I use everyday.

This moment and those lessons would likely never have happened had the dwarves not required us to venture into the Skumfil to earn that coin, had the need for Radiance not existed.

The 16th hall and the Dark Delvings are very dark places and required me to become better and better with the tactics I had learned in the places before, and to learn new ones as well.  Master Tarn wrote beautifully about one of the many lessons to be learned in the 16th Hall, so I will leave his words as testament to what trials can make on stronger there.

The Dark Delvings is far beyond any of the challenges presented in the places I listed before.  It is a vile, wicked place, the only one of these places that comes close to what it requires to be successful in the Vile Maw, by my reckoning.  The hard part begins with finding any willing to even venture there, for starters!  There are very few willing to brave its depths.  I have only seen it through to the end a couple of times due to this, but, as with all the others, the experience was invaluable, the moment of victory very sweet!

This moment and those lessons would likely never have happened had the dwarves not required us to venture into the Dark Delvings to earn that coin, had the need for Radiance not existed.

I truly believe that these lessons, and the increasing challenge presented by each of these places in turn, is necessary for one to hone the skills and learn what it takes to find victory in the places that will soon no longer require the armor of radiance.  I mentioned all the things one must juggle in such places before.  To allow one to venture directly into the darkest of places, without learning these things, is, to my mind, telling them that, to start to learn how to juggle, they must keep these ten sharp knives in the air to begin with.  They will fail, and they will do so horribly.  They will lose heart, and they will forsake such places.  Unnumbered adventures will never take place and and would-be adventurers will never be, just as I would never have been had it not be for Master Tarnorili, who kept pestering me about such things, until I finally relented .  I cannot imagine how different my time in Middle-Earth would be had I never tried again, but I know it would be much darker, with so many treasured moments and times that would simply have never existed.

For any who think that this would not come to pass, that others would still venture into all those other places, learn those skills, and be equipped for the treacherous Vile Maw, I offer into evidence the chant that echoes all throughout Khazad-Dum these days.  Anyone who has ventured into the halls of Moria know of what I speak.  It is deafening, unrelenting, and it goes:

“Grand… Stairs… Grand… Stairs… Grand Stairs… Grand… Stairs…”

Fellowships are formed and broken, in numbers untold, to venture into the Grand Stairs these days, where the rest of the shadowed halls are largely forgotten.  I hate to think of the nasties that teem in the now-unexplored depths.  Now that the same coins can be spent on all pieces of radiant armor, most do not bother with the more challenging places, or any place, really, save for the Grand… Stairs…

I truly believe they are shortchanging themselves of the far more worthwhile currency of experience, and, without being surrounded by those who have learned such things, many adventuring hearts will perish.  Unnumbered adventures will never take place, would-be adventurers never will be, and those special moments will never happen for them, or for those who wish to adventure with them so dearly.

Now, hopefully a quicker word about grinding and legendary items

As before, I cannot speak for any other than Scouts, but the radiance armor the dwarves trade in is far and away the best that can be found for we Scouts, save for inside the places that require radiance, which number just three:  The Vile Maw, Dar Narbugud, and Barad Guldur.  As I have precious little experience with these places, someone correct me if I am wrong about that, but I do believe there are only three.  Therefore, the dwarven armor is still worth getting, even if the radiance is removed.  As far as there being a grind involved in acquiring that armor, it is my opinion that is no longer the case.  Here is why:

The amount of radiance medallions required to barter for the four pieces of Moria armor that are worthwhile, the helm and shoulders being better acquired elsewhere, is 70.  Oh, I should mention that, until the radiance is removed from them, each piece measures 10 radians

The amount of radiance medallions earned in just one successful venture into each of the areas mentioned above is: 56

The Grand Stair Daily Challenge:  7 (Clearing the entire stair gets you 10, I believe)

The Forges of Khazad-Dum Daily Challenge:  10

The Fil-Gashan Challenge:  9

The Skumfil Challenge:  10

The 16th Hall Challenge:  10

The Dark Delvings Challenge:  10

A successful turtle-hunt nets you 3 more, so by only exploring each dark place once, you need only hunt one more turtle and explore the place of your choosing just once more and you are set with what are likely the best armor pieces around!

Now the elves of Lothlorien offer a three piece set of radiant armor, that being a jacket, some leggings, and a pair of gloves, each measuring 15 radians.  The total amount of radiance medallions required to earn all three pieces is:  50

The amount of radiance medallions earned in just one successful venture into each area that rewards them is:  27

The Halls of Crafting Daily Challenge:  9
The Water-wheels Challenge:  9
The Hall of Mirrors Challenge:  9

I believe that such coins can also be found in the Vile Maw and Dar Narboogoo, but excluding them, just two successful adventures into each of these regions is more than enough to complete your set!  It is a bit more than for the Moria medallions, but only two more adventures, really.  Or, if you like, you can trade in Medallions of Moria for Medallions of Lothlorien, but they really get you with the exchange rate!  I believe it is ten to one!

Now, the elves of the Mirkwood also trade in radiant armor, and it is radiant, indeed!  It is a three piece set consisting of boots, shoulder armor, and a helm, with each burning at 25 radians apiece!  The amount of medallions required for all three pieces is:  60

The amount of radiance medallions earned in just one successful venture into each area that rewards them is:  41-49 or so.

The Sword Halls Easy Challenge:  3
The Sword Halls Hard Challenge:  8
The Warg Pens Challenge:  12
The Dungeons of Dol Guldur Challenge:  10-16 depending on how many prisoners are saved, I believe.
The Sammath Gul Challenge:  8-10, I honesty cannot recall at the moment, and it is getting late

So, much like the other sets, there is only a need to repeat something twice, at most, to gather the necessary tokens, if you are up for the challenges.  Just through a thorough exploring of each area, one is very nearly there.  I do not feel that the little bit of extra exploration the dwarves and elves require is too much to ask for such lustrous things.  It is as simple as that, if one is up for the challenge.

And, the thing is, one had best be up for the challenge if they wish to enter the darkest places, like the Vile Maw.  In all my wanderings and adventures, I have yet to ever see the vile squid downed, though I have seen it squirming and within inches of its demise.  I have only been inside Dar Narboogoo once and have seen very little of it.  I dare not even think of stepping foot into Barad Guldur.

For the life of me, I cannot see why the dwarves are lifting the requirement of radiance to enter these places.  There is so much to be lost, and so little to be gained.  I suspect that, in the end, they caved to the cries of those who would soon be regretting getting what they asked for, if they only realized how much there was to be gained by making one’s way through the depths in a more deliberate way, striving to take what they can from each experience and making it their own.    How many will be lost to us,  like I nearly was?  I simply cannot denounce their thinking in strong enough terms.

I hope I have not offended anyone with these thoughts.  They belong more on the notice boards of the Overlords than here, but these feelings have been growing over the past few months, and I needed to state them, finally, in some form.  I wish I could trade some medallions to all who have read this through.

It is a very hard thing to always know what path one should take.  And, to force a path upon others is even harder, in every way imaginable.  But, I also see so many adventures fail, and adventurers attempt to venture into the darkest places who are not ready.

What is the right path, the true path for each one of us?  Without Radiance to guide us, the wise counsel of friends and a long look into one’s inner looking-glass is what we have left, and it will have to do.