Wednesday, October 9, 2013

An Imperial in Skyrim, pt. 1

The Asteria, a Dwemer airship

I can't say I'm a big fan of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though I've still enjoyed it. It's a beautiful game, certainly, but I must admit to being disappointed. (Note that my previous comments on the game are here.)

Still, I played my initial character, a mage, for a long time (though only scratching the surface of what was available in the game). After a break, I started an archer character, too, but I didn't think archery was as much fun in this game as it was in Oblivion. I can't say what the difference is, though.

And I got bored doing the same things all over again at the start of the game. Well, I was never crazy about the main quest, anyway. All those 'shouts' just seemed like a way to give everyone magic powers.

So I've installed a mod called "Alternate Start - Live Another Life." This one skips that whole introductory scene and just let's you create a character, then choose any one of many different beginnings (or choose randomly, if you want).

Now, if you've never played the game, I wouldn't use this mod. But if you're thinking of starting again, this is great. For one thing, it's quick. You can even sample all of the starts available, if you want. (You can start as a vampire, as one example. That's kind of neat.) Or you can just start a new game without investing a lot of time in it first.

So that's what I've done. Normally, I plan my characters. I decide how I want to play first, and then try to make sure that everything I do is optimal. Not this time. I chose an Imperial, for no real reason other than that I'd never played one before, and I chose the shipwreck start, knowing absolutely nothing about it.

And I had no clue how I was going to play the game - as a fighter, a thief, a mage? In fact, I've been playing awhile, and I still don't know. I'm just letting things happen, trying to make a story out of whatever I get. It's kind of fun.

Willam Kingsman, shipwrecked in Skyrim

I was worried about the Skinny Horker since the moment I set foot on the ship - and I was right to worry. Well, I worried about this whole crazy plan of sailing to Skyrim, anyway. But that's all over now, because the ship rolled over before we even got there, and I lost everything I owned.

Except for my life. At that, I was luckier than everyone else, so I really can't complain, can I? Especially since I was so certain I was going to die. Given the circumstances, my survival was little short of a miracle.

I found myself in icy water, trapped inside a ship which was completely upside down, but with a tiny air pocket above me. I had to dive several times to find a way out, exploring for further air pockets as I went. At the last, I discovered a huge hole in the hull - apparently, we'd hit an iceberg - and swam up to the surface.

But as I climbed up on the overturned hull, my heart sank. I wasn't too far from a desolate shore, but the water was covered with large chunks of ice - just not large enough to walk on. The wind was howling, I was already freezing, and I had almost nothing for supplies, though I'd grabbed what I could as I made my way through the ship.

Well, there wasn't anyone around - anyone alive - and I wasn't going to last much longer, so I jumped into the icy water and swam to shore. I'm still amazed that I made it. Yeah, I was shivering like mad, frozen almost solid, but I was still breathing. Temporarily, at least. I had to find shelter fast.

Luckily, as I struggled up the ice-covered slope, I discovered a cave. It wasn't very warm inside, but at least it was out of the wind. It was also infested with undead!

My heart sank at that, too. I'm not much of a fighter. But I'm not one to give up, either, and I'd looted a corpse - one of my drowned companions - for a mace. With that, and a little magic flame I'd learned as a kid, I was able to kill the draugr which attacked me. And the ones after that.

A little while later, I encountered the ghost of a young woman - the first of many - but she also attacked me. Later, I discovered - and killed - the creepy necromancer who'd been making all those undead. In his journals, he explained how he'd been abducting young women from the nearby town, then killing them, all because he got some kind of weird sexual pleasure from their obedient ghosts.

It was really disgusting! What kind of land have I come to? But I did learn I was near a town called Dawnstar, and I was able to gather enough loot from his lair to give me a small stake (assuming I'd be able to sell it). More importantly, the necromancer had a brazier in his bedroom, so I was finally able to dry out my clothes and warm up a bit.

Nightcaller Temple, near Dawnstar

That made it even harder to step out into the roaring blizzard outside, but I had a goal now. I was determined to make it to Dawnstar, and I did - though just barely. I was on my last legs when I finally stumbled into town.

Oddly enough, no one in Dawnstar seemed to know anything about those women who'd been abducted. How old was that necromancer, anyway? [That's one of the things I dislike about Skyrim. When you get a quest, it's usually clear across the map. (This one is connected to someone in Riften, apparently, which is about as far as you can get from Dawnstar.) Why don't people have local concerns?]

But then, no one in Dawnstar seemed to be getting enough sleep, either, so maybe they just weren't thinking clearly. Apparently, they were all having horrid dreams. It didn't bother me. I slept well in their cozy - and warm! - inn, after selling the rusty old weapons I'd looted from the draugr. But I was so grateful for shelter, that I agreed to join a priest of Mara - a Dunmer - who asked for my help in fixing the problem.

Erandur, and a lovely bard, at the Windpeak Inn

It wasn't until I followed him to a dark tower nearby that I learned the real story. Erandur, this follower of Mara, had once been part of a group which worshiped Vaermina the Dreamweaver, a Daedric lord, and it was an artifact inside the Nightcaller Temple which was causing these problems.

The temple itself had been magically protected, but our entrance awoke both priests and orcs, who'd been fighting each other but now turned on us. It was a little more than I'd expected when I volunteered to help. Actually, it was a lot more than I expected.

But at the end, we were victorious, Dawnstar was saved, and Erandur volunteered to travel with me, helping me as I'd helped him.

Erandur at Nightcaller Temple

I had no particular place to go, but I wanted to get warm again (or as warm as it gets in Skyrim, at least), so I led us south. (They were nice people in Dawnstar, but how can they live in an icebox like that?)

So we took the main road south towards Whiterun - and calling it a "road" is being very generous, frankly, since it was covered by snow drifts most of the time - and came upon Ft. Dunstad, which had been overrun by bandits.

There's war in this cold land, with some of the jarls rebelling against the Empire (and fighting each other, too), but I didn't realize that it was this bad, that bandits could take over a major fort guarding the only road linking Dawnstar with the rest of the province.

Well, this wasn't my fight,... but we weren't expecting bandits at the fort until we stumbled into them. Let me tell you, I was very grateful to have Erandur with me! He's deadly in a fight. In fact, after taking out the initial ambush, we decided to go ahead and clear the rest of the fort.

After all, other innocent people were going to stumble into the same situation. And I grew up in a trading family. I have a hatred of bandits which almost matches my newfound hatred of necromancers!

Ft. Dunstad, in the snow (of course)

Luckily, they didn't know we were there, and they were quite spread out. The bandits in that initial ambush would have been smarter to let the others know that travelers had arrived, before they attacked. But then, I suppose they wanted to keep the loot to themselves. And if they'd been capable, they wouldn't have been bandits in the first place, huh?

At any rate, we were able to sneak around and take them out one or two at a time. (Note that we found the bodies of some of their victims, so I had absolutely no problem with executing these bandits in the most efficient way possible.) I felt free to help myself to their equipment, afterwards. I suppose that most of it was stolen goods, but I couldn't do anything about that.

The rest of our journey to Whiterun was uneventful. We did encounter some spiders, but my man Erandur took care of them almost before I realized we were under attack. Oh, and we met an old orc who was looking for a "good death." He wanted me to provide that, but I'm no murderer. (And, frankly, he looked pretty tough still. He wasn't that old.)

Just before Whiterun, we got out of the snow. Man, I was sure glad to see growing plants again! But it was still pretty darn cold. Isn't there anywhere warm in this whole province?

Note that I'm still playing this by ear. I started with a Flame spell, which is a very weak fire spell, and I found a mace in the wreck. The combination of the two let me survive that first encounter with undead, so that's how I've been playing the game, with a mace in one hand and a fire spell in the other.

I took a bow off one of those draugr, so I've been using that, too. Basically, I sneak everywhere, and I try to get a shot at unsuspecting foes with a bow, if I can. Then I switch to the mace and spell combination for close work. I'd be better off concentrating on one kind of attack, but I don't think I'll do that. So far, at least, I've just been concentrating on my sneaking skill.

But who knows? As I say, I'm playing this by ear. Where I go, what I do, how I end up fighting,... I'll just decide all that as I go. And I don't know how long I'll play, either. (Note that I'm further along than this, but I think this post is plenty long enough already.)

Note: I intend to continue with this story, at least for awhile. I'll put all the posts here.

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