Today is the first anniversary of The Starry Mantle! I want to thank all of you, my most excellent readers, for your interest and encouragement this past year. You know what Hobbits do on their birthdays, right? They give away presents! I’ve got some prizes that I’d like to give away, and if you’d like to receive one, just comment on this post and I’ll enter your name into a draw. I’ll be closing the comments and making the draw on Monday, 3 December, so please make sure to leave a comment before then! Scroll down to the last paragraph for details.
But in the meantime, I can hear someone in the back yelling “Speech!”, so here’s a little retrospective of the past year here at The Starry Mantle!
What a fun year it’s been! One year ago today, inspired by the creativity of LOTRO cosmetics bloggers like Hymne, Devonna, and Freyjuska, I shared my very first outfit, Cheerful Minstrel. Looking back at that first post, I see that my general post outline hasn’t changed very much since then, but I sure have become a lot wordier over the course of the year! I’m thinking I could probably stand to try to recapture a bit of that old brevity… but who am I kidding, not in this post! Starting the blog was super-exciting and I began with a posting schedule of three outfits each week — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I have absolutely no idea how I managed that without going crazy. Like Gollum-style crazy. Pretty quickly I learned that blogging is a lot of fun, but it’s also a commitment. For each post, I try to come up with an outfit concept that is hopefully not visually repugnant, assemble the outfit and take screenshots, edit the screenshots, tie the concept to Tokien’s lore in some way, research that lore, and compose and edit the post. It can definitely take some time from beginning to end. What I’m really trying to say is that I have huge admiration for my fellow outfit bloggers, the broader LOTRO blogging and podcasting community, and just bloggers in general! These days I have slowed the pace down to one outfit per week, on Wednesdays, and I find that suits me much better. Oh yeah, about that. I know that back in July I had said the one post per week schedule was going to be just for the summer but, well… Sméagol lied!
Most Lore-heavy Post
As you probably know, “lore” is a big part of my vision for The Starry Mantle. Sometimes, my nerd glands go into overdrive and I end up with a crazy lore-heavy post, where the outfit almost seems to be more of an excuse to discuss the lore. I think of Satrap of Khand as an example of this kind of post. That was probably also the wordiest outfit post I’ve published, at somewhere around 1,000 words (when I started the blog my target word-count was a short and sweet 400!). I’m extremely grateful and relieved to have been told by kind readers that some of these lore-heavy posts are enjoyable and not too pompous-seeming, which is always a
worry. Fortunately for me, LOTRO players
are lore-lovers as well as cosmetics fans!
Most Lore-light Post
On the other hand, some posts that have been really fun for me have had only the most tenuous connection to the lore. I’m thinking of Sandson’s Egg-runner here, centering around a the idea of an egg-courier network (!) which, needless to say, has nothing to do with Tolkien. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Crazed Murderer, which has even less to do with Tolkien than Egg-runner (that is to say, nothing). Granted, it was a Hallowe’en post, but come on, it’s based on Jason from the Friday the 13th films.
Most Flowery Text
I usually try to write the first two paragraphs of my posts (where I talk about the lore and context of the outfit) in a slightly elevated style that suits the subject matter. Sometimes this probably gets a bit out of hand. Two posts in particular come to mind, and by complete coincidence the two posts form a bit of a thematic duo: Dusk-roamer and Dawn-lark. Embarrassing factoid: I was going to compose poetry for Dusk-roamer’s flavour text but fortunately I came to my senses and abandoned that idea. I think you can still see hints of what might have been in the text that did get published.
Favourite Audience Participation
When I wrapped up the third and final post of my Battle of Five Armies collection, readers very justly asked, “Why only three posts in a collection about five armies?” There was a post for the Men, a post for the Elves, and a post for the Dwarves. Where were the Goblins and the Wargs? It was (maybe?) jokingly suggested that I do a post to cover those overlooked armies and I decided to go for it. It was a great suggestion and I’m so glad it was made because the sort of tongue-in-cheek result, Firebomber and Fleshmauler of Bolg, was really fun to put together and share on the blog. Plus I got to write the opening paragraph in an attempt to approximate what Goblin-speech might sound
like, which I really enjoyed!
Fun With Animals
I occasionally have these bright ideas to do outfits that involve using in-game animals as props. It always seems genius at the time but usually ends up with a lot of gnashing of teeth (hint: mine, not the animals’). We’ve had a wolf, a stag, chickens, a (dead) elk, and various livestock including a sheep, a cow, and even a goat (and a little dog too). This doesn’t even count all the critters my toons have been attacked by while screenshotting over the course of the year (but that’s a story for Fool-of-a-Took Day 2013!). Each time I swear never to take screenshots with critters again but I know I’ll be back like a Hobbit to the larder. What kind of animal should I
exploit work with next?
So which posts have been “reader favourites”? Well, it’s actually pretty hard to tell with the tools WordPress gives us. Readers can rate posts using the star widget, but the number of ratings each post receives can vary pretty widely. Also, since the results of these ratings are simple averages, a post that gets one 5-star vote counts as better-received than a post that gets ninety-nine 5-star ratings and one 4-star rating.
That said, according to the star-rating widget, the audience favourite has been Satrap of Khand, which has a perfect 5-star
rating with ten votes. I’m actually surprised
that Satrap was so popular since of all the
posts I’ve presented it’s not among my
favourites in terms of the outfit. Maybe some
of the votes were more for the lore content
than for the outfit itself. Easterlings are a
pretty intriguing subject after all, so that
could explain it.
Compare the vote situation for Satrap of Khand with my portrait of Gandalf the Grey, which received nineteen votes in total (by far the most of any of my posts). The votes were mostly 5-star, but there was at least one 4-star or lower vote in there, so Gandalf ends up being ranked significantly lower by the star widget even though it received significantly more votes. Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards though, because if we take post “Likes” as an indicator of popularity, Gandalf comes out on top, with five “Likes”.
Another way to guage a reader fave is by raw
number of page views. In that case, the winner
by a wide margin is Knight of Dol Amroth.
This one remains one of my favourite outfits
as well! Interestingly, it seems to me that
posts with “Knight” or “Captain” in the title
seem to be more popular on average than
Then there are the “what not to wear”-type outfits, the crimes against Middle-earth fashion as it were. The lowest-rated outfit according to the star widget was Bow-master of Thranduil. Okay, guilty as charged. Looking at that outfit in hindsight, I can agree that this was perhaps not my best offering, although some very kind readers did leave mercy-comments.
Or, if we go by page views (or lack thereof), and taking into account the age of the post, there was a distinct lack of love for Dwarven War-skald. Again, I can kind of see why. I mean, looking at it, I recognize what I was
going for, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.
Also, he looks like he’s playing the saxophone.
Then again a sweet sax solo could only have
improved that post!
Another way to judge outfits that readers might not have liked very much is of course the comments section. Citing gaudiness, lore-inappropriateness, and just general alien-faced-cloakness, you guys let me know in the comments of Watcher at the Bounds that this was not a favourite post. Another post in which reader disapproval was voiced was Wandering Sage (featuring THE HAT), in which we learned that not everyone shares my love for bizarre headwear. On the other hand, LOTRO hats be cray-cray. That’s a well-known truth, and I have learned to embrace the madness!
There was an outfit that garnered some positive comments but also actually inspired at least one emailed “what the hell Starry”, and that was Lindon Dart-hurler. Truth be told I’m really fond of that outfit (I still wear it on my warden!) and in a weird way sort of proud that it resulted in some head-scratching. I feel like those outfits, the ones that are maybe a little borderline, are the ones where I’ve done some cosmetic risk-taking and while they might not be universally enjoyed, they sometimes really speak to some people.
Bonus Deleted Outfits!
I wouldn’t say there are any outfits I’ve presented that I really don’t like (though in hindsight I see why readers didn’t really like some of them), but there were two outfits I put together that never made it to the blog… until now! (It’s like the extended director’s cut of The Starry Mantle!)
The first, which was meant to be an Elvish warrior with supporting lore about the consequences of bodily death to the Elves, was kiboshed due to the ultimate fashion crime: that of being hideously boring. Fascinating lore, dire outfit. I can kind of see what I was trying to go for with the get-up, but at the time I simply didn’t have access to suitable pieces that would have made this one pop visually. Because of the great lore, this is a concept I’m definitely going to revisit someday, hopefully in a more interesting way cosmetically.
The second “deleted outfit” is maybe a little less mundane, but there was just something about it I didn’t like. I don’t know… maybe I should have shared it as more of a risk-taking venture than anything else. On the other hand, whenever I see the screenshots for that outfit I get what I imagine is a slightly pained look on my face. I actually can’t put my finger on what I don’t like about this visually. This outfit was going to be entitled Wolfsbane and the idea was that she had lost her eye to some wolf-pack leader which she was now hunting mercilessly, hence the eyepatch. Now that I type that, it seems pretty hokey, like some Middle-earth version of The Grey, uuugh.
You might be curious about what my favourite outfits have been. It’s hard to pick, but I’ve put together a little gallery below of some of my favourites, in no particular order.
Do you have an oufit or post that you particularly enjoyed from the past year? Or any that were an affront to your eyeballs? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Thank you so much for reading, everyone! Please remember to comment before Monday, 3 December for a chance to win some Turbine Points. Until next week, happy outfitting!
Prizes: There are three prizes up for grabs: two 1,550 Turbine Point codes and a LOTRO Expansion Triple Pack key. The Expansion Triple Pack includes Mines of Moria, Siege of Mirkwood, and Rise of Isengard. Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the draw, which will take place on Monday, 3 December 2012. If you do not want to be entered for the Expansion Triple Pack (i.e., because you already own the expansions), please let me know in your comment. Make sure you use the email address you would like me to send your prize to. Good luck!