When Jeff “MadeOfLions” Libby, the developer primarily responsible for the epic quests, dropped into a forum thread, players had no idea the treasure cache that he would unearth. It started with a simple call for stories around the development of the Lord of the Rings Online and along the way we’ve heard about the creation of Carn Dûm, those mysterious ruins in Ered Luin, what happened to the Riders Four storyline in Rohan, and much more. But he snagged my interest when he mentioned dwarf doors, a concept for doors hidden deep with the labyrinth of Moria only to be revealed to the most dedicated explorers. What were these hidden dwarf doors and why didn’t they make it into the game? Where would they have been and are they still there today waiting for the right player to open them up?
From the original thread, MadeOfLions explains what the team wanted to implement:
The original pie-in-the-sky concept for these was that they would spawn like rare monsters do, and only be available for a limited time. Each one would need a special requirement in order to open: like an emote, or a quest object, or my favorite, which would have been expensive on a tech level: typing in a password. Behind each door would be a randomly stitched-together dungeon.
This idea draws heavy inspiration from the doors of Durin constructed by the dwarf Narvi and the elf Celebrimbor as hidden entrances into the dwarf fortress of Khazad-dûm. You will quickly recognize the scene from the Lord of the Rings movies where the fellowship attempts to enter Moria through one of these doors or from the in-game epic prologue where you aid a company of dwarves trying to enter that same door. Famously inscribed on the door are the words (in Elvish) “Speak, friend, and enter,” referencing the passworded nature of the hidden doorway.
Players familiar with the Inn of the Forsaken instance might recognize a similar mechanic. In order to progress through this puzzle instance, one must decipher riddles encoded on doors beneath the Forsaken Inn by using one of 83 standard emotes. Of course, shortly after the release of the instance, the answers to these riddles were already posted all over the Internet, and I’m sure it would have been the same with the dwarf doors.
But randomly generated dungeons sound quite daunting to develop and while they may keep adventurers busy, they don’t exactly sound like they would fit with the game’s narrative-based gameplay but rather something you might find in a more hack ‘n’ slash environment. An objective to repeatedly kill a certain amount of foes and receive a reward can quickly become quite tiresome.
The developers made a second attempt at implementing the idea of dwarf doors albeit in a slightly simpler fashion which MadeOfLions described as “more of a quest arc and less of a gameplay system.” This method involved gathering rare dwarf lamp fragments from foes in Moria to gain a passive skill that revealed these special doors when you came across them and a general location of where to search.
The doors were said to lead to specially-designed 3-6 person instances with different challenges such as a giant shadow grim or a plain room with countless waves of wargs. These doors made it into the Moria beta, but according to one forum user, “the devs said they couldn’t get them to [the] level of polish they wanted, and then simply moved on in different directions.”
However, another user Aylwen claims that in the end most of the instances “were recycled for the item advancement instances.” Those are the quests in the Dolven-view, such as the Ghost-forge or the Library of Steel, where players bring infused adamants, garnets and sapphires to a dwarf NPC, complete an instance, and receive titles or sealed relics for legendary items.
While the actual doors as a repeatable mechanic never made it into the game, players will still encounter a few through gameplay like at the aforementioned Hollin gate or in the Way of Smiths (Volume II, Book 2, Chapter 7). There are rumors, however, that the original dwarf doors scattered around Moria remain but lie dormant with no way to obtain the dwarf lamps. There are at least five different colors of dwarf lamp fragments (blue, purple, red, green, yellow) lying in the game’s database.
A user claimed that shortly after the release of Moria, the fragments still dropped, but the quests did not work. After working his magic on a GM, MueR’s character had the passive abilities to see and enter the doors, but with no one else able to join, the instances were overwhelming. I’m not saying it’s still possible, but with a region as gargantuan as Moria, I’m sure there are plenty of hidden gems left to uncover.