The Guardian's Role

Brrokk Barrowbane
2nd August 2013


This is my short guide to fellowship play in LOTRO as a guardian. An important caveat is that it’s my view from my own experience. I’m not really a great expert, I’ve just done it a lot. I usually try to avoid jargon, but here I’m more interested in keeping things short. I call the guardian “he” throughout, with apologies in advance to players of female characters.

It’s mostly about the role of a guardian as main tank in a fellowship. Other roles are possible (off-tank; special bosses; solo play) and adjustments must be made for these. Basically, the guardian’s job in a fellowship is to make sure that he’s the one getting hit, and be so tough that the hits have little effect. He doesn’t particularly deal damage; the rest of the group do that. If the guardian does his job, no-one dies, and he’s the only one with a repair bill.

When playing in a fellowship, the guardian’s two important tasks are:
(1) Take and keep aggro.
(2) Stay alive.

You might think I should reverse the order of those. How can the guardian keep aggro if he’s dead? But the point is that these are his jobs in a fellowship. Keeping the guardian alive is the healer’s job! The healer can’t do this job if the guardian loses aggro because he’ll then be getting hit. As guardian, it’s necessary to get on with your job and assume that everyone else will do theirs too. An effective fellowship is one where everyone has this kind of attitude.

In this article I’m not going to write detail of which virtues to equip and what the best pieces of equipment are. These things change with every game update and I’m not an expert anyway. Instead, I’m describing the general principles I’ve come to understand over six years’ play in the hope that they help you make your own build and equipment choices.

Taking Aggro

Taking aggro, like anything else, is done in two stages. First, character build and equipment. Second, firing off the right skills in the fight. For character build, threat is the obvious thing to enhance. This is mainly done through the legendary guardian’s belt legacies and possibly some jewellery items. On the guardian’s belt, shield use is important as well as direct threat. Some legacies and relics on the weapon can also enhance threat.

For skills, see the diagram at the end of this article. I imagine guardian skills in this diagram, where each row of skills can be roughly travelled left-to-right when circumstances activate them.

The obvious stance to be using is Guardian’s Threat.

To take aggro at the start of a fight, Challenge is the most obvious choice. But one can also just run in and start hitting if the rest of the fellowship are willing to show some restraint. Or it’s possible to pull from a distance, either by shooting an arrow or using Fray the Edge. Pulling lets you decide where the fight will take place and it can be good to separate one or a few mobs from a bunch. It’s also a good approach with trolls as you can make sure knock-backs don’t throw you where you will activate more mobs or over cliffs. On the other hand, with a lone troll, it may be better to run straight between his legs, turn and start hitting. This makes sure he faces away from the rest of the fellowship and doesn’t AOE them.

A hint for dealing with knock-backs: The /follow command can be bound to a key (I use the F key). Once the fight is underway and you have aggro, hit F to stay with the troll. If he knocks you, you will start returning in mid-air with instant reaction and not overshoot.

Once the fight is underway, in a good fellowship you need to spam aggro rather than do damage. Vexing Blow and Engage are good ones. I try to keep Challenge in reserve once it’s cooled down, but use it if you’re sure things are under control. Others are activated by circumstances: use Litany of Defiance and the block-activated shield skills whenever they become available.

The rest of the time, unless AOE is a bad thing for some special reason (stunned mobs nearby; reflective damage), spam blows just to make the bad guys angry. Sweeping Cut is the obvious option. Whirling Retaliation has a bonus effect: it reduces everyone else’s threat making yours greater in comparison. In a long fight with multiple mobs it may be worth switching target now and then to get hits on neglected ones. For this reason, it’s rarely worthwhile having the guardian in a fellowship as RAT, (and the guardian doesn’t always follow RAT).

It’s always good policy to arrange the fight with the mobs facing you and everyone else behind them. This keeps your fellows from being hit by any AOE, and also lets you see imediately if any mob leaves you to go after someone else. A wall or pillar behind you helps with knock-backs.

Keeping Aggro

If you use those threat skills enough, you shouldn’t have much trouble enraging all your foes, but it’s always worth keeping something in reserve in case a mob leaves you and goes after the healer. Useful skills at this point are Challenge (if you’ve kept it and you’re close enough) or Fray the Edge which has a nice long range of effect. The real emergency one is Challenge the Darkness which can solve anything, temporarily. After firing that off in a big fight, go straight to the staying alive skills!

The boss is usually your main target although some fellowships will like you to keep aggro of everything. If a single mob goes off after someone else, though, it’s not always a problem. The usual fighting method has the group picking off mobs one by one while you keep the boss. In that case you will see those mobs leaving you, but the DPS guys should be able to handle them. Just keep your healer safe so that he can keep you safe. Finally you are facing just the boss and everyone else is hitting him too; another great triumph is imminent!

Staying Alive

This is also done in two stages, at design time and in the fight.

First, the primary character stats. Again, these things change with updates, but in general it’s possible to say that:
So for equipment, choose pieces which add to Vitality and Might, maybe also Agility and Fate. Armour value is obvious. There are a few useful items like the Great River bauble which gives a temporary shield, although this may now be superceded by Wildermore items. Then there are block/parry/evade and mitigations.

In order, your ways of avoiding damage are:
After taking damage, incoming healing helps your healer restore you. (Getting the picture? As guardian there’s “the boss and the mobs”, “your healer” and then “the rest of the group”).

Mouse-over the stats and mitigations on your character sheet to gain understanding of them.

So, into the fight. Well, just before a tough fight gobble down some food which gives Vitality or Might and some restoration food and soup, and maybe put Protection on a DPS comrade or healer. Hope and scrolls also help. In the fight, besides spamming aggro, keep an eye on your morale bar and the boss’s morale bar. You want to see his going down faster than yours, although progress may be slow at the start of a fight if the rest of the fellowship are occupied taking down mobs. If things are going badly, use whatever options are available in between aggro skills:
The diagram below should make the timing of these clear.

In a real emergency there’s Endurance of Stone if you’re a dwarf. That staves off defeat for about 10 seconds, which may be long enough for the fellowship to turn things around. That’s a good one to use after Challenge the Darkness if Guardian’s Pledge isn’t available.

After using Guardian's Pledge I immediately use Deep Breath if it's available as it resets Guardian's Pledge for a next use.

Other Roles

What if there are two guardians in the group, or a warden? Agreement before the start of a fight is essential; there’s no point fighting each other for aggro. One guardian should be in Guardian’s Threat and spam all the aggro. The other should play “off-champ” and go DPS in Overpower. Two guardians can put Protection on each other to get more block responses. In order to fill this kind of role, I keep a two-hander weapon in my bag. The other guardian will take all the hits so I won’t need my shield at all. It’s worth having the purpose of this second weapon in mind when equipping its legacies: give it Might and Agility and extra finesse rather than Vitality. (Finesse reduces your opponent’s mitigation).

Some would re-trait to fill this role. This can increase the damage output quite a lot for a guardian, but it’s expensive and you need to know well in advance when you’re going to need it. I’m hoping that the next big update will give us trait tabs like the war horses to help with this.

Solo play is possibly the most annoying part of being a guardian. Dealing damage is slow but the danger from landscape mobs is small. I find myself running about trying to aggro as many mobs as I can, just to speed things up. Trait tabs may help here too.


(1) Keep Aggro
(2) Stay alive

Baruk-Khazad! May all your bosses have magnificent treasure chests!

Guardian Skills Map