Time for adventures! As you’ve probably gathered, I’m embarking on a series of diaries documenting my aimless exploits in Morrowind, the third Elder Scrolls game and predecessor to the, ah, divisive Oblivion. Armed only with a bunch of mods* and an entirely cavalier attitude towards lore and saving the world, I finally set off to Vvardenfell. In this first instalment – fighting ducks, plummeting wizards and accidental trouser-loss.
First, a few very basic ground rules about how I’m going to play this:
– My character is very much in this for himself, rather than being especially interested in any epic quest to banish evil from the land. This means I am free to roam as I please, and am not held back by a specific moral code – I do what I want to do, but must accept any consequences of that, rather than reaching for reload. The exception to this is death, because I’m not starting over every time a bandit cuts me from nave to chops.
– I might be a thief and an oaf but I am not, however, a murderer. When someone attacks me, I’ll fight back – but during this adventure, there will be no killing people in cold blood. Of course, this stance may at some point be tested…
– I will not attempt to shape my character’s development one way or another. Stats don’t generally figure in any real narrative, so to all intents and purposes they won’t exist here either. If this means I end up with a horrible, cludgy mess of a character, so be it. The adventures are what matter.
Okay. Shall we begin?
I can’t remember what I was in prison for. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t anything really bad though, as I don’t seem to be taking my release from it terribly seriously. After a Dark Elf with some particularly unattractive facial piercings asks me my name – a little odd, as we’ve clearly been on this prison ship for a while, but it’s only as I prepare to leave that he thinks to ask – a swaggering guard turns up to walk me out, and to freedom.
I’m not having any of it. As he strides manfully towards the prison ship’s exit, rather than mutely following as requested, I repeatedly attempt to overtake him. Hey, slowpoke, wassamatter? He seems displeased, but says nothing. What’s he going to do? I’m a free man now. I surge past him, reaching the hatch before he can whine at me. So long sucker.
Creeeeeeeak and…. daylight! Ah, yes. I don’t remember anything before today, but somehow it feels like a while since I saw the sun. It’s beautiful out there – trees and seas, and civilians pacing around amiably. I’m going to enjoy this place. The goodly guards have even brought in Morgan Freeman to cheerily send me on my way. Thanks, Morg.
Just past him, another guard arrives – heavily armoured, and blocking my path. I tense. Partly because I’m expecting trouble, and partly because he vaguely reminds of someone from another life. Someone I loathe to the pit of my very soul. Was it… Jauffre? I brace myself to hear a voice from my nightmares, but it’s okay. The people of Vvardenfell don’t communicate quite like those in that other life**. My ears are safe.
Jauffre-esque simply wants to know my origins. I’m a Dark Elf, I tell him. Look at my stern, oddly wrinkled face, I gesture. Admire my long, luxurious ebony locks, I preen. He waves me on.
I enter the building behind him, into a lavish room of ornaments and stern men. What a lot of people seem to have turned up for my arrival. It’s almost flattering. The bald fella I approach next wants to know my trade. I can’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure I don’t fall square on the side of the law. It seems foolish to admit this but… hell, I yam what I yam. ‘Agent’ seems the best description of what I do – a bit sneaky, a bit thiefy, but not a total waste of space when it comes to a straight sword fight. I can also summon a few magical beasties for kicks and diversions. Next, he wants to know my starsign. Christ, man, this isn’t speed-dating. Oh, alright- the Thief. Happy now? I briefly turn invisible, just to show off.
I’m sent down the hall, and wander into a small sideroom. There is swag here. I peer around the corner cautiously. No-one seems to be watching, so… into my massive pocket it all goes: plates, candelabra, books, cutlery, bread, some strange ointment. Even the bread baskets are pocketed – every penny counts, right? I might be fresh off the boat, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got enough loot to afford a nice hat already.
I head out the door, briefly pausing in the next thoroughfare to swipe a magic ring from a barrel, and next I bump into Julius Caesar. I think he wants me to do a job for him. What am I, a volunteer fireman? Stow it, buddy: I’m a criminal straight off the criminalboat. I let him drone on a bit, then wander off again. One more door and then finally – I have the run of town.
It’s busy out. People are everywhere, a few children skip around the streets, and for some reason there’s a huge horse standing in the way of the main road out of town. Now, I’ve sworn not to take a life in cold blood, but inconsiderate horses don’t really count. During my casual larceny earlier, I pocketed a dagger – eat it, Mr Ed.
I get a couple of good stabs in before I’m warned that the townspeople don’t take kindly to me attacking their pets. The horse scarpers, and a guard accosts me. Do I want to pay a fine, to go to prison, or to fight? I don’t think I’m really going to risk my own life for the sake of the right to knife a pony, so I give the guy 65 gold and he lets me go. I’m not convinced I’ve had 65g worth of fun, but it sure beats going back to jail.
I am a little annoyed that I didn’t get closure on my first fight, however. So, I sneak around the back of the houses, and find a pond. A few ducks and herons are swimming around calmly. I stealth over to the cutest duckling I can find and shnikt-splat-squawk.
As I stare at the tiny yellow body, I experience an unpleasant sensation in the pit of my stomach. What is that? It’s not the pride of a clean steal. It’s not the adrenal joy of a fight well fought. Oh, yes. It’s guilt. Terrible, gnawing, shameful guilt – I just killed a baby duck, for no reason whatsoever. Oof. If I want the bards to ever sing my story, I need to smarten up my act a little. I head out of town, in search of a fair fight to redeem myself. There’ll surely be bandits out here, and I’m going to fight them. So long as they fight me first, of course.
On the way, a wizard in a funny hat falls out of the sky, and lands in a crumpled heap in front of me.
I run behind a nearby tree, and hide for a bit. Once I’m sure that whatever threw the wizard isn’t hot on his heels, I creep over to the corpse. It seems I have no problem with rifling through the pockets of dead bodies, interestingly. Just as well, as this guy’s loaded with good stuff. There’s a sword with a magical electric charge, a few coins, some fancy shoes, a nice robe, and a book. Oh, and that ridiculous hat, which looks rather like a prophylactic. I immediately put it on my own head.
The book says something about experimental magical transport, which I presume was the source of this poor guy’s fatal arrival. I’ll look into that later. Right now though, as I stare at the mysterious wizard’s now-nude corpse, I feel that unpleasant sensation in the pit of my stomach again. This time, I supress it, and head back to town. Have stuff, will sell.
I find the local shop, but the first person I talk to in there seems to be a trainer rather than a seller. And yet she refuses to train me. I attempt some friendly persuasion, which backfires spectacularly. She’s instantly annoyed by my attempts at a compliment, and the conversation grinds to a surly halt. Oops – better hope I don’t urgently need training any time soon. I head upstairs, and find the shop’s proprietor. He seems unaware or unconcerned that my of my wares have been stolen from military bases and dead bodies from the sky, so I quickly amass what seems like a small fortune. I immediately spend it again, on a lovely set of chitin armour and a steel short sword.
To afford the last pauldron, I have to also sell what I’m wearing (though I manage to hang onto that ridiculous hat). I don’t notice until after the transaction is complete that I’ve managed to sell my trousers – without buying replacements. Nor can I now afford new pants. I’m all decked out in fierce-looking armour, but I don’t have any trousers.
My shoulders might be massive and spikily armoured, but my thin legs are embarrasingly bare, and a thin loincloth only just conceals my modesty. I look like I got wasted on a Lord of the Rings-themed stag night, and have left half my Sauron costume in some bar five hours ago. No-one in the shop laughs, but I can tell they’re looking.
Blushing, I slope off, a sad, bare-legged silhouette of shame. But at least now I have my first quest: to find some new trousers. I head out of town again, in search of profitable adventure. As I do, I wander past an old friend, still lying naked in the mud.
Huh. There’s that unpleasant feeling again.
Tomorrow: slaves, exciting new trousers and robbing the taxman.
*A few newly-added mods since the last post, in case you care – the excellent if faintly unnerving Children of Morrowind, the handily atmospheric Lights 300, an alternative tree overhaul in Seasons and a replacement Dark Brotherhood armour, the latter purely because something went horribly wrong with the original look during my ultra modding. A giant yellow pentagon doesn’t scream stealth, somehow.
** There’s little speech in Morrowind, so most dialogue happens only in text. Which mercifully spares me Oblivion’s ear-abusing handful of voice actors.