My experience with LOTRO was that a one time payment of $20 was all it took to be set up for the life of my characters. No further investment of cash is necessary.
Why $20? Because it pays for the Mithril Edition of LOTRO. That comes with 4 areas, a mount, and 2000 turbine points. The turbine points alone are worth the $20.
After that, a Free 2 Play account becomes a Premium account, since you spent actual money on the game. You start with two character slots, but upon hitting Premium, you get a third character slot... which is like getting another 595 turbine points for free.
Here is where it gets interesting. If you recognize and acknowledge that turbine points are almost the same as money, since you can purchase them with money... LOTRO virtually pays you for playing the game. If you perform the deeds in the game, you can earn turbine points. If you come at this from a broader viewpoint than most people will use, you can actually never spend another dime on the game, and get everything you need.
Take that third new character slot. Create a tank or DPS based character (Champion, Guardian, Hunter). This type of character will be easy to play, and require the least investment of time and gear to play well. Use that character to complete all the deeds in Ered Luin and The Shire. Continue completing deeds in Bree-Land, avoiding the three deeds in The Barrows that must be done INSIDE of a dungeon (Barrow Wardens, Barrow Spirits, Barrow Spiders).
Now, use one of your other higher level characters to collect reputation items in Angmar (Council of the North, Rangers of Esteledin), Evendim (Wardens of Annuminas), Bree (Men of Bree, Mathom Society), Ered Luin (Thorin's Hall). Getting 122 of the rep items that give you 700 reputation points will take a character from Neutral to Kindred... and that will earn you 50 turbine points per faction. The factions I listed have the best drop rates, and that there is 300 turbine points. Send all those reputation items to your new character (that just did all the deeds).
Let's look at the break down then.
- Ered Luin 130 TP
- The Shire 150 TP
- Bree 155 TP
- Faction Reputation 300 TP
- Total 735 TP
You then delete that character, make another one, and repeat.
Why deed only in these lands? These are the starter lands, and most of the slayer deeds require you to kill 90 opponents total (30 for the basic slayer deed, 60 for the advanced). Those two slayer deeds will earn you 15 turbine points total. If you compare that to one of the Bree-land Barrows deeds I told you to avoid doing, or one of the slayer deeds anywhere else in the game, you are looking at around 360 or more opponents to kill for the same amount of turbine points. That's 120 kills for the basic deed and 240 for the advanced. In other words, you could end up doing four times the work for the same payout. In some cases, it is 450 kills per deed combination, in others it might only be twice as many but against much harder opponents. Only in those three starter areas are the number of kills so low that it is very worthwhile to consider the Turbine Point collection character to be disposable.
Another reason to consider the character to be disposable, is because of the Turbine Points you can collect with reputation items. You can only collect those Turbine Points once per character, but they are quite lucrative (at 50 TP per faction). You can get together with a few friends and have them help you grind out all the rep items you need to do it more quickly.
Turbine Points are Account specific, not character specific. So, points collected with one character are usable across your account.
Now, at 735 Turbine Points per life of the disposable character, you can be purchasing new lands at an alarming rate. Extras like more bags become easily available. Expenses like 100 Turbine Points for the Riding Skill are almost laughable expenses.
You want to have multiple accounts? Simple. Have your kids log in with you on their accounts, and everyone log into your disposable TP collection characters. Create a Fellowship and go through all the deeds together. Not only will it go more quickly, but each player will have to do less work. You can even have them simply attach their characters to yours (aka right click your icon and choose Follow) and you can do all the work, dragging them through the slayer and exploration deeds.
All that for a single investment of $20 per account, which is cheaper than most games cost today. If your kids don't intend to play at one time, but rather you want to share a single account, you need only do some work ahead of time and use those collected turbine points to purchase more character slots. You can purchase a new slot every time you work a new TP collector character.
How do I know? I've been frivolous with my Turbine Points at times... but I'm a Free to Play player. I've got my Premium account. I bought the Mithril Edition from Game Stop when it was $10 in store. The only land I haven't purchased with Turbine Points earned through these methods, is Great River. Otherwise, I have every other land in the game including Rohan. I have all six bags. All my characters have the riding skill (other than my TP collector, as it is a waste to spend the 100 TP if I am just going to delete the character). I have opened Trait slots. I purchased the expanded wallet. I have six character slots. Earlier on, I bought recipes. To reiterate, I never went VIP. I never purchased a subscription. The only money I spent, was on the Mithril Edition of the game.