A couple of folk were kind enough to read and comment on this post, and I’d been thinking about it some more as well. There are some mitigating factors which I wanted to talk about. Some of these are negatives about how EQ does it and some positives or ‘not as bad as it sounds’ stuff about LotRO.
Firstly, with EverQuest, helping your friends level is the same process as levelling yourself, any time, all the time. While this makes it simple, it also makes it pretty tedious, in fact, much of EverQuest is pretty tedious (I can say this now, after not playing for a long time, although clearly at the time it was more engaging). You go out, you kill stuff, you continue doing that until you level and then you do it some more. So while it makes it easy to keep your friends at the same level, it doesn’t exactly provide much variability.
In line with that, although LotRO quest based XP means you might have to repeat the same quests a few times to keep your friends at the same levels, it’s essentially no different from EverQuest. You get to run around killing stuff, while in the background your friends are completing quests and getting XP. So the end result isn’t any different. You might find you don’t get much XP, but the aim is to let your friends catch up, not keep the gap at the same distance so this isn’t an issue either. Because the quests in LotRO cover a lot of locations, you’re more mobile than you would be in EverQuest and killing stuff is, after all, the same as killing stuff no matter where you are. So it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Secondly, there is value in killing a lot of creatures in Lord of the Rings Online. Each area has a number of deeds, those deeds give titles, XP and traits as rewards. There are mob kill based deeds which tend to have two stages, the first gives a title, the second gives a trait. If you only go to an area, complete the quests and move on it’s unlikely you’ll kill enough creatures to get both levels and you might not even achieve the first. This is especially true of elite mobs (such as Trolls) or non-aggro mobs like crawlers. However, if you keep going back to help out your friends, you will complete those deeds and end up with a more rounded character. So there is absolutely some benefit to being in a place for longer periods killing the creatures, and helping your friends is just a bonus.
Thirdly, related to the above, there are quests from level 39 and up which require you to kill a lot of creatures to get rare pages (especially in Angmar and the Misty Mountains). If you’re helping friends in those areas (which I am), then you’ll see your pages drop without having to go back later and just farm them. Another bonus to being somewhere beyond completing the quests yourself.
There are numerous other things you can do, while helping friends level, which add value and which you would otherwise have to ‘farm’ or ‘grind’ out on your own. As long as the mobs give some XP, you’ll earn skill-based deed increases (where you’re required to use the same skill over and over until you earn the trait). Often in tough fights, you don’t get the chance to use less-useful skills but in trivial fights while helping friends you can use the same low-damage skill over and over until you complete the deed, without exposing your friends to a grisly death. There’s always a need to collect crafting ingredients and recipes, even below your currently attained skill tier, which is why you’ll often find people helping out their friends leaving them to ‘handle’ some creatures for ‘just a moment’ while they mine an ore node or collecting some wood (before returning to revive their companions).
Turbine have added some specific rewards for repeating certain quests lines (mainly the Book based quests), since they’re fellowship quests and you always need people to repeat them unless you’re very lucky. The rewards vary from the okay to the lacklustre but it’s still an option.
If you’ve done a lot of stuff solo, or in small groups, there’s a good chance you’ve missed a few fellowship or tougher-then-normal quests. Going back and helping your friends while you’re slightly higher lets everyone complete these quests. I had a perfect example of this a couple of nights ago in Angmar, there’s a bunch of elite quests inside a fort which I hadn’t done (neither had Grete or one of our other friends). We were helping two friends level, and we went and did those quests. With 5 of us they were fun, challenging and more interesting than the regular quests and we all got some XP. Although the rewards weren’t really upgrades for 3 of us, it was still a good chance to do some of the harder content that we wouldn’t otherwise normally see.
Lastly of course, the real benefit, is that you get to spend time in a group with friends, having a laugh, some decent banter, and quoting nearly all of Aliens in the process. Sure we chat in the Kin channel when we’re soloing or just mooching, but there’s something more social about being in the same fellowship, standing in the middle of Angmar cursing at the enemy and laughing when someone gets knocked off a horse on the run back to camp.
NB: All of this discussion excludes any element of swimming across Evendim. There is never any good reason for repeating any action which involves swimming anywhere in Evendim. Turbine need to add some swimming deeds. Then and only then will I gleefully help out in Evendim. Yes, adding the boat was a fantastic move, but by then I’d already spent half a lifetime swimming across that damn lake. The boat doesn’t go to the Blue Lady’s cave does it? Oh no. And you still have to swim to Salamander Island don’t you? Yes. Too. Much. Swimming.