Lord of the Rings Online TCG

From LOTR-TCG Wiki
Decipherian Kathy McCracken tries out the LOTRO-TCG client at DecipherCon 2003.

The Lord of the Rings Online TCG (often abbreviated as LOTRO, not to be confused with the MMO of the same abbreviation) was the only officially supported electronic method of playing the game, developed by Worlds Apart Productions. It was a downloadable program for both Windows and Mac OS X, and boasted a collection manager, robust deckbuilder, and most of all a rules-enforced method of playing the game online.

LOTRO utilized what would today be called a microtransaction system where players purchased starter decks and booster packs to earn their cards, a nearly 1:1 recreation of the physical game's monetary system (albeit at a somewhat cheaper rate than the physical product cost). These cards were tradeable and could also be won through placement in events (as well as keeping the cards drafted in draft modes). In addition to casual play, LOTRO supported tournaments, leagues, and sealed/draft play. Emphasis was made on permitting players to customize their experience, letting them earn online avatars and movement tokens by participating in online events.

LOTRO introduced a number of exclusive cards, products, and formats not available for physical play. These included Draft Packs for King, WOTR, and Hunters blocks, which never manifested as physical products. Some exclusive cards utilized features that were infeasible to recreate in physical play, such as the point-purchase system of the Customizable League Cards or the randomized abilities of the Triumph and Menace series that tracked game-long statistics. Simplified physical versions of the Customizable League Cards were also offered exclusively to players who participated in online leagues, which today are among the rarest and most difficult cards to find.


In 2001 Decipher had partnered with DigitalDeck to create the Star Trek CCG Online, but for unknown reasons the management of that platform was transferred to Worlds Apart in September 2002[1]. That same month it was announced that Worlds Apart would be developing a sister platform for the LOTR-TCG[2], with the game entering Alpha soon after. The Top 16 players at Worlds 2002 (as well as winners of other tournaments at DecipherCon 2002) were invited to participate in this early closed Alpha testing[3].

At DecipherCon 2003, an early build of the game was available for the public to test, and players were able to take the chance to sign up for a closed Beta test[4]. Around the same time in summer 2003, the Two-Player QuickStart Set was released which included a tutorial on CD-ROM, which tutorial was based on a cut-down version of the LOTRO client.

An open beta was launched in September 2003[5], and finally the game went live on January 31, 2004.

In 2005 Sony Online Entertainment (now Daybreak Game Company LLC) bought Worlds Apart and renamed it to SOE-Denver, while continuing to support LOTRO. On May 22, 2007, with Decipher losing the Lord of the Rings license, they announced the closure of all support for LOTRO (including the ability to purchase new cards) effective June 30, 2007[6]. The client remained available for download and the SOE servers ran until June 30, 2010 when they were shut down for good.


In spite of the game's servers being shut down, the program itself still functions without logging in, albeit only the decklist builder and collection manager is of any use without any server connection. Many fans continued to use it in this capacity even years after the servers shut down.

LOTRO utilized the proprietary *.ldc file format for saving and loading decks, and was the only method supported by the game. As the game managers regularly published tournament decklists through these files (which were included in the installer), many decks are only known because of data mined from the game files, which can be found in plain text in this TLHH post here. A full specification of the *.ldc file format can be found at LDC File Format Specification.

As normal Starter Decks are not tournament legal, LOTRO had created improved versions of those decks that brought their deck totals up to 60 minimum. Those modified decklists continue to be the versions used today in GEMP.


Electronic Platforms
Official Unofficial Deckbuilders
Game Clients Lord of the Rings Online SdA LackeyCCG gccg mLOTRO GEMP Zorbec's
File Formats *.ldc *.dck *.dek [gccg] *.txt - *.zdl
Zorbec's Decklist Builder Support