Guide To Experience Mechanics
The Mechanic of "Rested" Experience
Most people figure this out eventually, but I'll spell it out just in case.
* When you are in a "rested" state (a blue portion of your exp bar is showing), you get exactly double the normal exp for every kill. This does not affect quest rewards; only exp from killing mobs.
* You can spend Destiny Points to purchase additional "rest time".
The Basic Patterns of Group Experience
I could probably boil the group exp mechanics down to single formula but I'm lazy and it would make it harder to explain what's going on. So I'll present it as a three-part process because that's easiest to grasp:
Killing monsters while grouped adds an experience modifier.
Start with the group exp bonus, which is a fixed percentage value. Every member added to a fellowship increases the group exp bonus by 1.20 in a multiplicative manner. For example, a mob normally worth 100 exp for a solo kill is worth 144 exp if a 3-person fellowship kills it. Specifically:
o 2 people = 20% group exp bonus (1 * 1.2 = 1.20)
o 3 people = 44% group exp bonus (1.2 * 1.2 = 1.44)
o 4 people = 73% group exp bonus (1.44 * 1.2 = 1.73)
o 5 people = 107% group exp bonus (1.73 * 1.2 = 2.07)
o 6 people = 149% group exp bonus (2.07 * 1.2 = 2.49)
* Next, apply the group exp bonus to each person's baseline solo exp to derive each person's baseline group exp, which is completely independent of anyone else in the group. The group exp bonus percentage is applied individually to EACH person's normal baseline solo exp for the mob. For example, assume a level 11 player would normally get 100 exp for solo-killing mob X, and a level 16 player would normally get 40 exp for solo-killing that same mob X. If those two players are in a fellowship together and kill that same mob X, the baseline group exp for the level 11 player is 120 exp (100 * 1.2), and the baseline group exp for the level 16 player is 48 exp (40 * 1.2).
* Finally, divide each player's baseline group exp by the total number of players to derive the adjusted exp that each player receives. Again, the important point is that the baseline group exp is *different* for each player in the group as described in the preceding bullet. So to continue our 2-player example, the level 11 player would get 60 adjusted exp for the kill (120 / 2) and the level 16 player would get 24 adjusted exp for the kill (48 / 2).
* There is one penalty that affects the basic mechanics outlined in the preceding three bullets. If any one player in the group is so high that the mobs being killed yeild 0 baseline solo exp for that player, then this does adversely affect the rest of the group to a degree that I have not tested thoroughly enough to state the formulas. At a rough guess based on limited testing, I'm theorizing that the penalty to every other player in the group is that they get only 66% of their adjusted exp instead of the full 100% of their adjusted exp. For example, when I paired a level 11 player with a level 36 player in the same fellowship and they killed a level 12 boar together, the level 36 of course got nothing at all, and the level 11 player got exactly 66% of what they would get in a 2-person fellowship with someone who was "in the color range" (at least green) for the boar. This is an obvious anti-exploit penalty to prevent using high-level players to power-level lower-level players. In a similar fashion, if you are below the color range (mob is purple to you), you get reduced or no exp, but I think the other players in range of the mob are not adversely penalized for that (I have not be able to fully test this for myself). This subject bears further testing, and if anyone has already done so please post your observations.
That's the group exp mechanics in a nutshell. If you think about it a little bit, you'll see that unlike practically any other MMO, the group exp mechanics in LOTRO are extremely forgiving and guild-friendly. Here are the ramifications spelled out:
* There is no penalty whatsoever to any player in a fellowship based on the "level spread" of the fellowship, as long as the highest player in the group is "within the color range" of the mob. Your adjusted exp is not dependent on anyone else's level!!! Higher-level players in the fellowship do NOT somehow "steal" exp from the lower-level players in the fellowship!!! Drive those points home and spread it around because it's the Number One misconception that most players have at the moment, and it's preventing PUGs and even many kinships from grouping together more often. Yes, there is a penalty if the higher players in the group are outside the "color range" of the mob, but even then the penalty is a very slight reduction of only -33% of the adjusted exp for the players who are in the "color range".
* The only "penalty" that exists is based on how many players are in your group, and even that is a somewhat false penalty. In fact, the more players in your group the more raw exp you are all bringing in over time. This is because of the multiplicative nature of the group exp bonus. For example, assume that your baseline solo exp is 100 exp for a mob that you can kill in 30 seconds. If adding a second player to your group enables you to kill two of those mobs in 30 seconds, your exp flow over those 30 seconds is 20% better (60 * 2 = 120 adjusted exp). If adding a third player to your group enables you to kill three of those mobs in 30 seconds, your exp flow is now 44% better (48 *3 = 144 adjusted exp). And so on.
* Of course, there is a practical point of diminishing returns for how much faster a larger group can kill things. In reality, 6 people are not going to kill mobs at 6x the normal solo rate, but even if an entire group of 6 can kill mobs only 3x as fast as you can solo those same mobs, then you're still WAY ahead in terms of exp flow. For example, 6 of you kill a mob that normally yields 100 baseline solo exp. Your adjusted exp for the kill is 41 points ((100 * 2.49) / 6), so killing 3 of those mobs yields 123 adjusted exp for you. That's 23% better exp flow than you could do by yourself.
The Basic Pattern of "Assist" Exp
The mechanics of "assist" exp are essentially the same as for group exp, with several differences:
* Everyone involved in the kill in any way constitutes a "temporary fellowship" for the purpose of calculating exp, and this number can go much higher than only 6 people.
* The group exp bonus is not applied if you are solo when somebody assists you.
* The group exp bonus is applied only according to the number of people in the actual fellowship who tags the mob.
* Only the person(s) who tag the mob get their share of the final adjusted exp. The involved player(s) who performed the "assist" do not receive their share of the adjusted exp.
Yes, all that can be confusing at first glance so let's elaborate a bit.
You have been "assisted" if you are soloing or fellowing and somebody else comes along and does anything at all to you (or your pet) or your tagged mob during the course of the fight. It does not matter whether their assistance is to buff/heal you, debuff your tagged mob, or damage your tagged mob during the course of your fight. It does not matter if they do only 1 point of actual damage to your mob or they do most of the damage.
When you are assisted in this manner, the game effectively treats the total number of people who did anything regarding the fight as a "temporary group" of sorts and divides up the exp for each person in the "temporary group" without applying the normal fellowship group exp bonus. Only the player(s) who tagged the mob actually gets their share of the exp--the other player(s) who "assisted" do not receive "their share".
So, if you're solo and another solo player "assists" you, then you get exactly 50% of the exp you would have normally gotten for the mob (instead of the 60% you would have gotten if that person had been in a fellowship with you). If a fellowship of 2 players assists you (and you're solo), you get exactly 33% of the exp (instead of the normal 48% you would have gotten if you were all in a fellowship together). If three completely different, random players assist you (none of you are in a fellowship), you get exactly 25% of the exp (instead of the normal 43%). And so on. In all these three examples, you're just dividing your normal "solo" exp by the total number of people who were involved in any way, and remember this includes buffs, debuffs, heals, or anything---not just damage to the mob itself.
The same thing essentially happens if you are in a fellowship and another fellowship "assists" somehow, or if other random solo players assist your fellowship some how. The difference is that since you're in a fellowship, the group exp bonus and all the other group exp mechanics are applied first, so you at least receive the usual bonus exp. Still, though, the other players who are not in your fellowship take their portion and it's "thrown away" just like happens for solo players. So if you're in a fellowship of 3 people and a solo player "assists" your fellowship, you get the group exp bonus for 3 people, but in the last step of the process the baseline group exp is divided by 4 instead of 3. So instead of you getting your normal 144% / 3 share, you instead get a 144% / 4 share (group exp bonus for 3 people but divided by 4 to include the other solo player who "assisted" you).
Why does Turbine do this? Partly to encourage ad-hoc formation of groups when you run into other solo players in the same area where you're hunting. Why not group up if you'll get better exp for it, right? And also to prevent (to some extent) a common technique of power-leveling that is a particular favorite of offshore farming operations, where a high-level player lets a lowbie tag a mob and then the high level player kills it to give huge exp to the lowbie.
Grouping Still Has Problems, but Not Because of How Experience is Divided
Why solo? It takes longer and is more dangerous if your goal is xp.
As you can see, the raw mechanics of group exp are actually quite good. A strong fellowship can easily rake in far more exp flow over time than you could possibly get by soloing on your own.
Instead, the current problems with the overall exp design is based on two facts:
* There is a pervasive misconception among most of the player base that per-kill exp is very very low compared to quest reward exp, so most people feel that it is far more worthwhile to focus on completing quests instead of just grinding out mobs like so many other games require you to do. In fact, solo killing 12 even-con "white" mobs gives you the same exp on average as one quest reward. (Yes, Epic fellowship quest rewards are higher, but you need a group for most of those anyway.) At pretty much every level, you need to solo-kill the equivalent of roughly 300 "white" mobs to gain enough exp to be promoted to the next level. Once you factor in the group exp bonus, the actual time involved in grinding out mobs becomes even less. For example, you have to kill only around 20 "white" mobs in a duo (10 x 2) to gain the same exp as killing 12 mobs solo, etc. So although "grinding" mobs to level is undesirable by many folks (and you're missing out on the great storytelling in LOTRO), it *is* very feasible and very productive to just take a good group to a fast respawn area and grind your way up. In other words, grinding is pretty much equally feasible to questing as far as leveling speed goes. The moral of this story is that you shouldn't really care whether the fellowship you're in is completing *your* quests or not. You're still getting very good exp flow just by being in a group and reaping the benefits of the group exp bonus.
* Quests are very sequential and interrelated rather than being independent. Unlike in WoW, where you could easily share most quests with your teammates, in LOTRO you can share very few quests because chances are very good that your teammates have not performed the prereqs.
Of these two disincentives, one is a false belief/opinion that can be alleviated over time if players spread the word around. The second bullet point, however, can be fixed only by Turbine, and it would require somehow reducing the length of quest chains so that players can more easily "jump in at any point" by having their fellowship members share the current quest they're working on. Long chains are great from a storytelling perspective but are a strong disincentive towards grouping.