Throg's first weekend as a level 60 allowed saw him make some forays into MoM's end game. For most of his kinship end-game at present means running a selection of 6 man instances in "hard mode" in order to collect radiant armour pieces. Throg was lucky enough to get a place on one such run into the "16th Hall instance".
I am told the 16th Hall is one of the longest of the Hard Mode runs. It took us around three hours to do two runs but we were only five for the first run (including a noob Champ - me) which slowed us down a bit. Nothing particularly challenging: Lots of rooms, lots of multiple orc pulls and three bosses spaced through the encounter.
Aside: On the very first pull I managed to embarrass myself self by grabbing too much aggro and getting killed! I have no excuse other than it has been a while since I played in a fellowship and I was rusty. It was a rude awakening to the realities of aggro management and was probably a necessary lesson. After that I was more careful to make sure the mobs I was hitting were properly tanked. I still pulled aggro at times but by paying attention I found I could usually walk the mob back over to the tank and let him take it back using "ebbing ire" when necessary to hand over unwanted attention.
The lore behind the 16th hall is fairly interesting. Throughout Moria you come across groups of horribly mutated orcs who seem to be infected with some kind of fungus. Following the various overlapping trails you trace the source to the last boss of the 16th Hall known only as the Lost One.
[Spoiler] The extra "hard mode" challenge comes from a quest given by Sigurd in the 21st hall to kill the Lost One without harming any of his ridiculously weak adds. The generally accepted strategy seems to be using a healer to kite the adds using healing aggro while everyone else whomps on the boss. AOE skills are completely banned of course. It is possible to make the fight easier by "clever use of the terrain" ( or ....cough.... so I have heard). [End Spoiler]
Thankfully my experienced colleagues knew the strategies for each boss and we got the hard mode reward on both occasions: a coin that could be exchanged for radiant armour shoulders. Several of the party already had shoulders and they were generous enough to let Throg have a coin. These shoulders (Dagoranc) have lower stats than the axe-handler shoulders I am currently wearing but they do have the all important +10 radiance I will need for raiding the Watcher.
Visiting the 16th Hall also gave me an opportunity to visit Moria's lowest level The Foundations of Stone and to do some questing there. This is a tortuous maze of tunnels populated by dangerous mobs including many elites trolls. I am reminded of Nan Gurth in East Angmar which was a similarly difficult zone at level 50. A visit to the only settlement in the region (The Shadowed Refuge) confirmed that this was indeed a hub for MoM's end game. In contrast to the solo questing available elsewhere in Moria many of the quests from the Refuge can only be undertaken by high level fellowships. I managed to complete a few while doing the 16th hall run and had a go at the few solo quests available. My biggest hurdle in Foundations of Stone at present is navigation - it is very easy to get lost in the maze of passages and the normally excellent dynamic map is no help at all.
Before going in to the 16th hall I juggled traits to equip "Improved Rend". Rend is useful aoe skill that does a decent amount of damage over time but the improved version puts a long lasting armour debuff on all the mobs around you. Apparently this reduction of 1242 armour points can increase the damage a mob takes from everyone in the fellowship by as much as 10%. With its area of effect and 1 minute duration it is really easy to keep it on all the mobs around you. In order to fit this in I had to lose the fervour boost you get from having four traits in the Berserker line. Generating 1 point of fervour every four seconds instead of the normal five was a nice perk but not essential. I have started using the three point Brutal Strikes instead of the 4 point Relentless strikes and that has more than made up the difference. In any case the following useful analysis suggests that Brutal actually does more damage than Relentless.