Several members of Throg's kin have hit the level cap and more are fast approaching it. At level 54 it seems that I am among the most casual of the active players in this casual friendly kinship. In kin chat I can see that much of the talk has turned to those instances that must be run in order to gear up for the "Watcher" raid instance. My understanding of the Watcher is that an extension of the hope/dread mechanic is being applied to create a gear check. Effectively a special "radiance" armour set is required to prvent your character from constantly cowering in fear. Radiance armour is got from repeated runs of a set of preparatory instances in so called "hard mode".
This is the first real gear check in Lotro. Previously end game raiding (in the Rift and Helegorod) was open to any max level character and it was quite possible for a very casual player to go along on an occasional Raid as a tourist. Turbine's new approach offers advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side it offers a real sense of end-game progression - the ever tempting carrot on a stick that will help to keep more dedicated players motivated for the long haul. On the down side it will create a barrier between raiders and non raiders, perhaps splitting kinships into casual and hardcore groups.
To Turbine's credit the use of the radiance mechanic instead of a more traditional stats based gear check should help ensure that raiders are not completely overpowered in comparison to non raiders outside of raid instances.
Speaking personally I have never been particularly motivated by loot, I am happy to keep playing the game at my own pace as long as I find enjoyable things to do. It will be interesting to watch how the new "progression" based end game impacts players and Kinships. I suspect it will create new strains for very casual Kinships but Throg is lucky enough to be in a kinship that is both casual friendly and well organised. I am hopeful that this combination will see us through the changes to come. A very positive indication is that the Kin's raid planning tool is already being used to schedule low level instance and quest runs alongside end game events, this augurs well for us being to handle a mix of players at different steps on the end game progression ladder later on.