Skyrim EP15: Unfit for Duty

By Rutskarn Posted Friday Mar 7, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 122 comments

Link (YouTube)

Professor Rutskarn’s TES 101: Dragonborn in the Dragon USA

The conceit of a hero imbued with mystical dragon powers may seem, to the layman, like something Bethesda pulled out of their asses one week after people stopped buying horse armor DLC. Facts are, Dragonborn are deeply and inextricably interwoven with the mythos and history of the Elder Scrolls setting. The term was used as early as Morrowind, explored in greater significance throughout Oblivion, ultimately became the core narrative element and selling point of Skyrim, and we still have no idea what the hell they are.

Or do we? No. We don't. Not in any practical or satisfactory sense. Let's start from the beginning.

So there's Akatosh. Akatosh is the founder and head of the Super Afterschool Gods Club, and he is a dragon, because of course he is. Akatosh created dragons in his own image. One of these dragonsâ€"possibly the firstâ€"was a super powerful one who came to be called Alduin, who eats souls, tried to conquer the world, ended up killing thousands of people, and ultimately plans to destroy all of creation. So thanks for that one, Akatosh.

Some time later, Akatosh found a dude called Miraak who was worshipping dragons. He decided to give this Miraak a measure of his own divine power. How exactly he did this is unclear; it's said he gave the mortal some of his “blood,” but somehow a fluid transfusion seems an inadequate explanation. It's also unclear why he did it. The best theory is that he thought Miraak, now having the ability to permanently kill dragons by sucking out their souls, would save the realm from the present rampaging of the destroyer Alduin. Instead Miraak shacked up with a daedric prince and started enslaving and murdering other, nonthreatening dragons. The moral of this story is that for the king of all gods, Akatosh really sucks at creating shit.

Much later, Akatosh decided to try out that whole Dragonborn thing again, because hot damn if it wasn't a hoot last time. He gave the ruler of the Cyrodilic Empire–Saint Alessia–a transfusion of his god-blood that would make all of her line Dragonborn. This was part of a pact that kept the realm safe and the jaws of Oblivion shutâ€"a pact that sort of terminated with the death of Uriel Septim, although it's a lot more complicated than that and the specifics will by no means enrich your one and only life. Suffice it to say that there's three dynasties worth of questions as to how the pact worked and why it made any sense for anyone.

But I guess a Dragonborn is a Dragonborn. They’re created by Akatosh, except when they’re descended from one created from Akatosh, except when they’re born randomly. They’re really good at learning shouts when they absorb Dragon souls, except when they’re good at it before they kill dragons, or when they don’t shout, or or when they can’t shout. And the protagonist from Morrowind is one, unless he or she isn’t.

Somebody doesn't understand how or why this Dragonborn thing works. It might be Mehrunes Dagon, it could be Akatosh, I know it's me, and it's probably the writers. Class dismissed.

Next week: the Great War, the Civil War, and Which Side to Murder More Frequently.


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122 thoughts on “Skyrim EP15: Unfit for Duty

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    One of the coolest, most enduring, and most influential characters in the lore of TES is also a Dragonborn: Wulfharth, also called Ysmir, The Dragon’s Breath, or the Dragon of the North. He is also the being called Underking, or Ashking.

    Wulfharth’s exploits are many and legendary, and he has had a hand in great events in every era, and tied in strongly to most if not all Elder Scrolls games.

    If Miraak was indeed the first Dragonborn, it stands to reason that he must have been born in the Merethic Era, or early in the First Era, as Wulfharth’s first of many incarnations was documented as early as the fifth and sixth centuries 1E, including his first death resulting from a battle with Alduin, and possibly Malacath and the Orsimer.

    According to various legends, Wulfharth may well have been involved in the settling of Tamriel by Atmorans, the Battle of Red Mountain 1E 668, the war against the ice demon Ada’Soom dir-Kamal (possibly summoned by the Greybeards), the establishment of the Septim Dynasty to include the creation of the Mantella and Anumidium, and the destruction of Anumidium and the Warp in the West.

    Wulfharth was not only Dragonborn and a master of Thu’um, but a Shezarrine, a living agent of the fallen god Lorkhan’s spirit in Mundus, and indeed, many of his adventures throughout Tamrielic history have involved Shor or his interests. Being Shezarrine is at least as arcane and murky a concept as being Dragonborn, making Wulfharth a true chimera.

    This divine influence, more than anything, might be what has contributed to his longevity; he has died and reincarnated at least four or five times, and seems to remain at least somewhat aware of the world while ‘dead.’ His title “Ashking” stems from the fact that he is sometimes said to be reduced to nothing but dust upon death, and blowing away to wherever he will lie dormant until his next calling.

    He also rode a tiger-man into battle once. So that’s something.

    1. Why does he get into so many fights? Because he’s “Ashking” for it!

      Do I win a sketch?

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Uhhhh…. Sure! I guess. What would you like sketched?

        1. Hey, you don’t look quite like Rutskarn… Well, not in this light, exactly. Did you forget your login again?

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            How about Rogue Cheddar, freelance lunatic?

  2. TMTVL says:

    Well, of course the Imperials aren’t going to be impressed with the Dragonborn, no matter which level they are, the bandits just level scale right along.

    1. PeteTimesSix says:

      Might make them somewhat bitter, though.

      “Oh, here comes dragon boy. What, got another level have you? Made our job EVEN HARDER, perhaps?”

  3. Humanoid says:

    One of my stock RPG characters is called Alessia and when I started playing TES games with no knowledge of the setting, I started getting very confused indeed. I guess that’s one thing about naming key characters with rather mundane, day to day names, even if they are foreign ones.

    1. Another good reason for retaining my habit of naming fantasy characters after diseases!

    2. Michael says:

      Yeah… I accidentally named my first character in Morrowind after one of the Nine Divines…

  4. Hydralysk says:

    The most annoying part about those couriers is that if you immediately chuck the letter they give you, they just go “You dropped this!” and shove it right back into your pocket.

    1. Corpital says:

      It’s ok for ghosts to try and murder you, if you put something in their pants, but when you try the same with a courier, it suddenly is illegal?

      Damn you, oppressive jurisdiction!

  5. The Rocketeer says:

    “Isn’t this where I came in?”

    Maybe, but there’s nobody home.

  6. Raygereio says:

    Speech checks in Skyrim are not Fo3 style random dice rolls.
    Persuasions are simple speech skill checks and work similarly to New Vegas' dialogue skill checks, with the difference that Skyrim hides the skill level required to pass the check.
    Intimidation checks use the GetIntimidateSuccess function. There's no real documentation about how this function determines succes or failure, but it from ingame testing it seems to take your speech skillevel, your character level and the level of the NPC you're trying to intimidate into account.

    Civil War chat:
    Out of the whole game, I think the Civil War quest line suffers the most from having content cut during development. If you dig around with the CK and look at scripts and unused voice files, it looks like the original idea was to have large sieges for all cities and more varried quests with objectives like sabotage, getting soldiers to defect and much more.

    1. ET says:

      Dang, that sounds actually really fun.
      Too bad the engines is made for a completely different kind of game, than what those cut files imply for gameplay… ^^;

    2. czhah says:

      At least I found the civil war quest line to be overtly long, if anything. Especially since it featured things like mass combat and sieges that the game just can’t handle well and ended up being very immersion breaking for the most part.

    3. Michael says:

      And then the Stormcloaks would recruit Giants… because… O.O !!!!

  7. el_b says:

    is it just me or is this episode super pixellated in parts?

    1. ET says:

      I noticed it too, after failing to fix it by changing my resolution on YouTube.

  8. Flavius says:

    Personally, I like to think that they did not mind Catbert stealing the basket, but the act of shoving it down his pants (and the inevitable crotch thrusts, given the ribald suggestions that you all have made,) so disturbed Tullius and company that they arrested him on the spot.

    Also, is it bad that the legion uniforms in Skyrim are less covering (of the arms, at least) than the NCR uniforms in Fallout: New Vegas? Indeed, real Roman Legion uniforms for the Mediterranean are believed to have had longer tunic sleeves, and they had cold weather versions of them, as well. Given the lack of long sleeves in Fallout 3, I am beginning to suspect that someone in Bethesda’s design department has a bare arm fetish.

    I keep coming back to the idea that we are never shown Imperial Law. Are there normally courts, lawyers, and juries? How much does justice (swift and terrible as it might be,) matter to these people? Is lopping off heads standard practice, or are things so bad in the empire that this is what they have resorted to in desperation, but are unhappy about it?

    Finally, the bard’s college quest ended with what seemed to be a way of making minor adjustments to the song…I wonder if that could have been expanded upon; questing for various texts which give slightly different views of historical events, which the player could then assemble into a song of their preference using multiple choice answers…The more texts recovered, the more choices available. This could tie in to an over arching plot, where certain choices please various people, while angering others (like the current thane.)

    1. hborrgg says:

      @Roman Uniforms

      Not really, if anything the metal greaves and wrist armor are the least realistic parts of legion armor in this game. With some exceptions it seems that any form of arm or leg armor was not very popular among roman legionaries (all the marching and fighting that the infantry needed to do was tiring enough without any heavy limb weights).

      1. Flavius says:

        Let me clarify: I was not referring to the armor per se (at least the protective bits.) Instead, I was only referring to the fabric tunics that the Romans apparently wore under it; there appears to be some difference in opinion on the length of the tunic sleeves; some period depictions show them ending halfway down the bicep (like what is shown in Skyrim,) while others show the sleeve extending down to the elbow (I am not a Classical scholar, so there may be subtleties that I am missing here.) Either way, they apparently wore longer sleeved tunics in cold weather, like Skyrim’s climate. This is the bit that is annoying me…Also that the regional guard’s tunics have sleeves of similar length, and they frequently complain about the cold.

        Sorry if I missed your point.

        1. Microwaviblerabbit says:

          I know for the standard stormcloak armor there is a version in the game files with long sleeves. Since guard armor is a variant of stormcloak armor (or vice versa) presumably it would have been carried over. I would guess the lack of sleeves was an intentional choice at some point, maybe as a visual reminder that the Legion was a foreign force, ill-suited for this campaign. Or that someone really liked the muscle bulging that is present for short sleeved armors. Or that the image of a Roman legionary in popular culture is tied entirely to that armor design.

          Going by stormcloak dialogue about Legion soldiers which assumes they are all in heavy legion armor, it supports the idea that the Legion is ill-equipped for the region. It also feels like at one point the civil war factions would be more heavily divided by favored skills: Legion – heavy armor, one handed, block; stormcloaks – light armor, two handed weapons. The inevitable comparison to New Vegas would be how Caesar’s Legion armor favored melee weapons and light armor while the NCR used guns and medium armor, though these faction – equipment relationships are much stronger in New Vegas.

          1. Corpital says:

            Bear arms are probably there for the same reason as the boob windows, aren’t they? For you to oil them up and rub your face in…wait, what the topic again?

            Oh, armor. Yes. If I remember correctly, they used a lot of scale mail and chain mail. More interesting I find the really old armor made from some kind of papier mà¢ché. They glued layers of linen together and the result was pretty good for it’s low weight.

        2. silver Harloe says:

          The Roman Empire and/or Republic (at different times) has an 800+ year history. The odds that they had exactly one approved legion tunic the entire time are slim (actually, odds are good that at least some of the times in those 800+ years, the legionaries wore their own personal tunics and would have had different styles depending on whim, birthplace, etc)

        3. Humanoid says:

          The Jarls’ lack of sleeves always looked terrible to me, not helped by their terrible slouching in their thrones.

          1. Raygereio says:

            not helped by their terrible slouching in their thrones

            I think the intention was to make the Jarls look confident and “in charge” with that slouch. But it does look rather silly.

            1. Corpital says:

              But totally in character for the guy in Falkreath. Remember his epic quest of ‘Don’t care who you are or what you want, go get me some Black Briar Mead!’?

              But at least the Lakeview Manor location is awesome.

            2. czhah says:

              That Jarl-of-Solitude-chick did always look rather nervous and on the edge, though I never realized why.

              1. hborrgg says:

                Because she’s young, only recently became jarl because her husband was killed by Ulfric, and is currently in the middle of a civil war (directly in the middle, the Empire wants her to be high king instead of ulfric).

                1. czhah says:

                  Yeah, I knew the in-story reasons for it. I was referring to the posture comparison image linked by Raygereioe. I had not notice the difference in postures that reinforced my perception of her.

        4. hborrgg says:

          Oh, sorry. To the Romans the short tunic was a symbol of one’s masculinity, but when the alternative was frostbite yes many soldiers were quick to cover up with trousers, long sleeves and cloaks.

  9. Aaron says:

    gah that interface it blinds the eyes and and numbs the mind. it is normally boring and frustrating watching josh play ‘Merchant Extrodinare’ but this is just multiples worse.

    couple it with watching someone else pick locks while playing the bards college quest and you have a perfect storm of “I no longer want to play my current play through of this game”

    edit: and chris is right the “war” doesn’t really feel like a war at any point, its like the operation anchorage of skyrim

    1. Tizzy says:

      Another thing that doesn’t make it feel like a war, and somehow this only hit me a couple of episodes ago, is townspeople dialogue.

      I mean, sure, they talk about it. But a civil war is the single most destructive thing that can happen to a people. Just look at how the US one is still a huge factor in current politics, a century and a half later.

      Nords and other Skyrim residents should be *traumatized* by this, wherever their allegiance lies. But no, they seem to treat it as some spot of a bother. Very hard to take it seriously.

      1. Microwaviblerabbit says:

        I think if more people were executed for actively supporting one side or the other would have made the war more ‘real’. An example would be the Battleborns and Gray-manes of Whiterun. After the Empire/stormcloaks take hold of the city, it would make sense for them to exile the offending family, if not execute its head. Both actively fund their side, and scheme to undermine the other, and have family members fighting in the war. If they chop off the head of the guy who “let Ulfric escape”, what are they going to do to the guy supplying him with weapons and bankrolling his army while telling everyone Ulfric is right?

        Even for a completely just and fair regime, Vignar Gray-mane (the stormcloak choice for Jarl of Whiterun), who tries to overthrow the Jarl and presumably sabotage the defense of the city would be executed for treason. (I use the Gray-manes as they are the best example, but this applies to many others on both sides of the conflict.)

        1. Michael says:

          The Civil War scripting was written with the idea that holds could be contested and retaken later. So, executing alternate Jarls would mean setting up a whole line of succession, instead of each faction having a Jarl for each city, and simply swapping them out when the hold changes hands. In the final game, holds are a one shot system, and the only way they can change ownership twice is if you swap them one way during the summit, and conquer them for the other faction later.

      2. Raygereio says:

        Nords and other Skyrim residents should be *traumatized* by this, wherever their allegiance lies.

        Thing is though, Skyrim’s Civil War hasn’t really been going on all that long. Unrest has certainly been brewing for some 25 years. But Ulfirc only killed the High King and rebelled just before the game starts.
        There hasn’t really been time for Skyrim’s residents to become traumatized. Heck, I had the impression there hadn’t even been time for any major engagements between the two factions, just small skirmishes.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Two objections:

          A civil war doesn’t take very long to leave serious damage in its wake.

          The civil war is older than the duel with Torygg: the death of the High King is only the latest blow that was struck. (Otherwise, how would you even explain all the imperial troops?)

          As a matter of fact, the seeds of the civil war are planted some 25 years earlier with the Markarth incident

          I’m not sure if the lore gives an idea of when it actually breaks out. Someone more familiar than me with the texts might be able to answer that.

          1. Michael says:

            The uprising happened during The Great War, Ulfric’s ride to victory must have happened after he returned from Cyrodill, but I don’t know the exact timeline.

            1. Tizzy says:

              The piece that’s missing for me in the timeline is when do we go from Ulfric saying “let’s continue to worship Talos” to the Thalmor noticing, and then to them nudging the Empire into addressing it. Finally, when does the Empire’s actions turn to a military solution?

              When a think about it, that’s a lot of things to happen over the span of 25 years. Then again, history has shown how events like this can gel very quickly.

  10. imtoolazy says:

    Okay, I’m not done watching this episode yet, but Chris seriously needs to get into voice acting as a career(/side career)! (I mean, ES is still pretty darn good.)

    1. aldowyn says:

      I honestly didn’t know who did the muppet voice or whatever the first time (which is a good thing!)

      I’ve heard better Obama impressions than Rutskarn’s, though. (Sorry Rutskarn! :P)

      1. Michael says:

        I thought it was the unholy lovechild of George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon for a second… which was pretty funny in its own right.

  11. hborrgg says:

    I find it fascinating the lengths this game goes to accurately simulate alcohol addiction. Alcohol gives you a small boost to your stamina when you drink it but also slows down your stamina regeneration for a short period of time. This means that once you start drinking ale in battle you have to keep drinking more and more to keep your stamina up, digging yourself deeper and deeper into dependance until you stop drinking for 20 seconds and are completely cured, just like in real life.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I don’t usually laugh at the comments but yours was pretty good.

  12. McNutcase says:

    Now I know I can never join the Imperial Legion in this game. They used “your” where they should have used “you’re”.

    Bethesda Qwalitty Conntroll.

    1. Michael says:

      I think the unofficial patch fixes that…

  13. Ivellius says:

    Please more orc peon voices in future episodes. It was amazing.

    1. True story: About 15 years ago, a buddy of mine called up Blizzard to find out about their internship program. The guy who answered the phone was also the voice of the Dwarven Demolition Team. He even did all the lines over the phone for him. ‘Twas cool.

    2. Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think we need an episode hosted by the orc peon, Dr. Claw and President Obama.

      Just sayin’

      1. Humanoid says:

        Also Sean Connery.

  14. Hitchmeister says:

    Someone should do a “Realistic Barter” mod based loosely on Monty Python’s Cheese Shop. “So what have you got today? Blunted swords? Not a lot of call for those. Battered shields? We sell those as wall hangings, but we’re not taking any on at the moment. Bloody, damaged leather armor? It’d cost me more to get it mended and cleaned than I could sell it for. Oh, I see you have some of those impractical, highly ineffective and ridiculously heavy Ancient Nord weapons. We’re overstocked on those as it is. You can try checking back next month.”

    1. Yeah, but I’d be torn between barter/speech giving you a better deal or prolonging the humorous banter.

      1. Humanoid says:

        The end of the exchange has already been demonstrated.

        “Now, I’m going to ask you that question once more. And if you say no, I’m going to stab you through the chest. Now, do you have any gold at all?”

        1. “Rogue Cheddar” would be a great name for a Skyrim character.

    2. Veloxyll says:

      When the vendor at the end of the dungeon was suggested (was that this update, or the previous), I was thinking they should give you some sort of special currency for Ancient Nord weapons.
      Or, given how this episode ended: Healing potions.

      I also LOVE that the first random world dragon proceeded to firebomb the Thalmor Embassy, given that a random NPC once blamed them for the Dragons. (I have not finished the game even remotely, so I have no idea if this is what actually happened)

  15. Tever says:

    So my theory of Alduin. OK, Alduin was supposed to be inevitable. Everything has to end, and destroying the world to make way for a new one would actually have been a net good for the universe. But because the Dragonborn permanently killed him, Nirn is destined to fall into entropy, gradually dwindling away into a no-man’s land from which there can be no blessed escape. The Dragonborn is actually the villain in this game, and no one will ever realize it.

    1. MadHiro says:

      The Rocketeer is going to throw a rock at me for mentioning Michael Kirkbride, but there’s a totally weird thing that He Who Must Not Be Named But Was Anyways wrote about an event called Landfall which is/was/will be the end of the world. C0DA is weird, though. Really weird. So feel free to ignore it, which is oddly enough (supposedly) part of what its supposed to mean.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        To the contrary: I love C0DA! Just wish he had had the money for all the illustrations it deserves.

        But I think it demonstrates how far MK’s stuff is/has been/has gotten from what Bethesda is running with, or will run with.

        1. MadHiro says:

          I’m even more confused than when I read the 36 Sermons for the first time, now.

          And yeah. I think its safe to say that Bethesda will not be making a game about space-gods un-timing creation anytime soon.

    2. Hitch says:

      I don’t know about that. I can’t imagine anyone watching Josh play and mistaking The Dragonborn for a hero.

    3. Phantos says:

      I don’t think Bethesda is capable of writing a story that clever.

      I don’t think Bethesda is capable of writing “Highlights for Children”.

      1. Tever says:

        Oh, yeah, it’s definitely not what they intended. It’s just a fun theory I have.

        1. aldowyn says:

          I think I’ve heard similar theories.

          Of course the only reason we have all these theories is because Bethesda didn’t actually tell us anything useful in the game.

  16. Humanoid says:

    So Josh is starting to implore people to “START SHOOTING ME!” How far we’ve come.

  17. What’s even worse about the merchant banter is that it’s nearly identical to the lines in Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Apparently it’s considered so unimportant they don’t even change it between franchises. It makes me wonder if the voice actors are the same so they just have to record them once?

    1. Humanoid says:

      I miss the part where the Vendortron informs you that he’s got some nice pieces out here if you’re looking to buy, and that there’s more inside. And when Cliff Briscoe tell you that you look rather pale.

    2. ET says:

      They probably didn’t record them once, but I think they may have recorded the vendors all at one time.
      Like, they got some voice-for-hires, or they’re lower-paid employees/voice actors, and got them to record/mix/add effects to the vendor voices.
      So, in the morning, “OK, do some shopkeeper lines that sound like it’s the future or outer space.”, and in the afternoon, “OK, do some shopkeepers lines that sound like generic Tolkien-esque fantasy.”
      Obviously they haven’t made use of the weekend’s rush-job voices, which are for murdered/undead/injured vendors, for use in horror, zombie, etc games. ^^;

  18. Decius says:

    Somebody just walked into my room, did a hundred jumping jacks, complemented me a hundred times, and then slept in my bed for an hour.

    I must be a Morrowind NPC.

    1. ET says:

      Better than my fate.
      At least they didn’t make you a corpse, then sell all your belongings, and use your shelves to store all their nicknacks.
      Being a ghost sucks. ^^;

    2. Hitch says:

      You’ve got it easy. A guy stopped me on the street, threatened to beat me up, told me a joke, bragged about how great he was, then tried to butter me up, then repeated all of that over and over until I gave up and gave him whatever he wanted just to get him to go away.

    3. utzel says:

      “Some guy I really hate just came in and I suddenly fell in love with him for a second. We had a long conversation where I told him everything/gave him the best prices during that second, and when he walked off I felt exploited and hated him even more.”
      This happened in Morrowind as soon as I realised talking to someone stopped time and a 1 second charm spell is pretty easy even if you’re not a mage.

      1. ET says:

        It’s even better if you make potions of INT+100k, then just make whatever charm spells/enchantments/potions you need, to win the game.
        “My god, this man has the charisma of ten thousand poets!”

  19. So Josh failed his roll to do something that’s normally considered a failure?

    Man, I hate this campaign.

    Shamus, you can slip me my payloa for plugging your comics later. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

    1. ET says:

      Heh. Roll-playing is the best when your DM is actively trying to harm you, while still sort of maintaining the plot. :P

  20. Hey! You killed that fox and took his pelt!

    And yet the fox’s corpse wasn’t then shown to be wearing a loincloth. Is that a bug?

    1. ET says:

      Is there a mod to give the animals polka-dot boxers?

      1. Or they can go the traditional route of old cartoons and give them long johns.

  21. Spammy says:

    Lydia seems so passive-aggressive in response to all the abuse that’s been thrown at her and I love it.

  22. Microwaviblerabbit says:

    The whole walk up the general thing highlighted a massive issue in Skyrim; faction ranks are meaningless. If you fight for the imperials they advance you through the ranks, but NPCs are either regular troops or Legates. It is a very flat organization. The same is true for the stormcloaks. They also lack specialists, other than quartermasters.

    Compare this to Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 3 or even Oblivion. The NCR and Caesar’s legion both have strong hierarchies and military specialists, and it is easy to see how they function. Lyon’s Brotherhood of Steel uses divides everyone into Scribes and Combat troops, and then subdivides these units. The Legion in Oblivion has archers, battlemages, and foresters, alongside regular troops and town guards.

    All these structures make the organizations more ‘real’ to the player, who can see how they function. Skyrim’s lack of these means interesting civil war quests are hard to create and the sides inherently feel dull. Also the player has issues such as why do I, an Imperial Legate, lack an army?

    1. Thomas says:

      The way the games treat you talking to high-ranking faction members is so different too.

      On paper joining Caesar’s legion is actually really similar. You walk into a place, talk to the boss, he gives you a loyalty quest and it starts from there.

      …but when you meet Caesar, they give it this huge rigmarole. They’re already treating you as an incredibly important and powerful person, you have to trek from New Vegas, across an active battlezone to a small, slightly sinister, outpost where you’re then boated away by a fairly suspicious ferryman. They disarm you, take you through a camp full of tents and soldiers and people doing very specific jobs. Then they force you to leave your companions behind and walk into a tent, full of elite bodyguards where Caesar is languishing in his throne waiting for you to present yourself to him. He speaks powerfully and a touch menacingly about what he requires you to do, recognising your accomplishments so far but letting you know that you can’t cross him. Then you leave.

      … that’s just so obviously how speaking to someone that important works. Instead of wandering into a building, glancing at their map whilst they talk strategy in front of you and then having a bit of a natter with their general

  23. Mathias says:

    I’ll add that to List of Mods I Would Make if I Was More Technically Competent:

    A fix for the broken-ass Thu’um and actually make it more interesting.

    A gift shop at the end of dungeons.

  24. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That reading animation.It seems like he is reading from a spellbook of power words.

    1. ET says:

      Lol. Although I get the humour of that OotS page, I actually could envision some things, which would make sense.
      Like, most of the pages in a spellbook used for writing a spell, are used to copy the recipes needed for the special ink to write that spell, and special incantations to help the spell get attunement between your spellbook and your brain.
      Also explains the ridiculous ink costs, and how you can only scribe one per day.
      (Your character is too worn out from all this handwriting, and mixing friggin’ inks. :P )

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think this is the first time that Ive heard “thanks obama” in the context of an actual thanks.Thanks Rutskarn.

    1. hborrgg says:

      Yeah. Thanks Rutskarn.

  26. Disc says:

    Unfinished quests are definitely looking to be yet another candidate for becoming the Incinerator of this season.

  27. Blov says:

    Again, Morrowind. The implicit and at times explicit conflicts between the Legion, the Dunmer and Dagoth Ur felt more real than the empire/stormcloaks deal. Even though this was very rarely shown.

    Also, joining the Legion was so much better. You find which Legion has space. You go get recruited. You do jobs and receive promotion and equipment. At some point you move up to getting special orders from the guy in charge of the whole province. In the process of following your orders you learn a lot about the Legion, its good and bad sides and its relationship with the people.

    More and more one of the key problems about Skyrim is that your quests just seem to be about BEING THE HERO, where in Morrowind they were about learning about your environment and the factions and so on. I’m finding that even Tribunal has much the same problem as Skyrim – SAVE THE CITY FROM THE GOBLIN ARMY BY GOING DOWN AND KILLING PEOPLE. Do you learn about the Goblin army’s origins/leaders/connections in the process? Nah. Do you do some scouting to find out about them before sorting them. Nah. Do you learn about the city or its ruins very much. Not really.

    Being the hero is not as good a motivation as getting to understand stuff, and that is the problem.

  28. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Josh I know you get flak for your play style, but around the 20 minute mark you were walking that cliff like a mountain goat. I was honestly impressed you didn’t fall off.

  29. ET says:

    So, for big open-world-type games, like Fallout, Skyrim, etc, I have an idea for handling weirdness with “prove your worth” quests, when you’ve murdered huge monsters and/or lords and ladies.
    You could have a “notoriety” score, for each of the towns in the game.
    So, if you do lots of hard quests in Town X, then people start saying lines treating your with respect, and it changes which quests are available, etc.
    You could even have sub-scores, for say, thief-like things, warrior-like things, and mage-like things, or whatever dividing lines you want to make.
    For example, in Fallout, you could have notoriety for your science/repair/whatever skill(s), non-violent political achievements, or whatever.
    You could even have scores for larger regions, by averaging the scores of all the towns in that region.
    Say, a score for the NCR as a whole in Fallout, or the Stormcloaks as a whole in Skyrim.
    You could even build a tree, encoding the parent/sub-region thing for the whole game.
    (Assuming that you make a simple editor for it, so your non-programmers can add the actual data to the game. :)

    1. Henson says:

      This sounds both really cool and relatively easy to implement. They already have hold-specific bounties and Jarls keeping track of favors done for their citizens, after all, and I think guards treat you differently depending on your standing in that particular hold. Here’s hoping to see this expanded in Elder Scrolls VI.

      1. Microwaviblerabbit says:

        I do miss the fame/notoriety system used in Oblivion. It was by no means perfect, but it did give the player a sense of becoming important in the world. Fallout: New Vegas almost had the system you describe, with each faction tracking your relationship (both good and bad) to them. NPC dialogue does change based on that, i.e Legionaries say “hi friend” in Latin.

        I am not sure that tracking fame based around skills or such is a good idea. I would prefer using the Morrowind model of giving factions favored skills, and forcing the player to be certain level regarding those skills before advancing. The factions in each game seem to cover all the skill areas on a basic level, and this would also solve the problem of a player with zero magic skills becoming Archmage.

        1. aldowyn says:

          I did like that about Morrowind. Most of the factions had a pretty wide variety, too, so it wasn’t quite as limiting as it sounds (particularly if you do a fair amount of training, which I’ve only done in Morrowind)

        2. Tizzy says:

          The sad thing is, even if they were adamant that any character should be able to do any Guild quest, there was such an easy out for that.

          You;re the Dragonborn! Your magic is more magical than magic! Why not use that? That would have made so much more sense! Design challenges that non-shouty people could never tackle, and people could genuinely be impressed by you and give you the key to the city for services rendered, even if you were a sucky mage or if you couldn’t sneak past a tree or swing a sword.

    2. aldowyn says:

      I was playing some RPG recently that had an overall reputation score… but I can’t remember which one it was…

      Anyway that does sound pretty simple to do.

  30. Phantos says:

    This reminds me, I only got this game so I could level up to 100 and then try and kill as many characters in the game world as possible.

    But having just recently finished the end of the civil war quest(by spamming the attack key forever), I don’t know if I care enough to go back to Skyrim.

  31. Brandon says:

    There’s actually a mod to make it so merchants only ever use their short messages like “Take a look” and never say “some may call this junk, I call them treasures” or their other longer dialogue.

    I really want a Patrick Bateman mod now, though.

    1. ET says:

      Remember the name of the mod?

      1. Brandon says:

        Apparently it is literally called “Merchants only reply with ‘Take a look'”

        1. ET says:

          Oh, cool, thanks!
          I miss the good old days*, when you could push the “barter” button on any NPC, and the barter dialog would just pop up.**

          * I’m currently replaying and enjoying immensely, Fallout 1.
          ** OK, it took about one second for an animation, but even that would be an easy fix, if somebody was going to implement this type of thing in a new game.

  32. Phantos says:

    I’ve been thinking: Does a game like this really NEED voice acting? I think, ideally, a game should only have voice acting if the characters have something important to say. Or have voices restricted only to the most important characters(or the most important scenes). Even really wordy JRPGs tend to resort to text on a screen for villagers and shopkeepers.

    I gotta figure most of the villagers and mooks in this game don’t say anything that really demanded voice acting. It’s like I’m supposed to be impressed at the thousands, maybe millions of lines of recorded dialogue, but most of that is repetitious word-flap. Did we really need to hear the same recycled grunts from bandits and side-quest vending machines? Is the experience improved by being able to hear every non-entity walking around Whiterun?

    And I don’t think we can use the argument that it’s to make the world more immersive, or “realistic”, because dragons. Once a game lets me shoot fire out of my face, I no longer care if it’s not realistic enough.

    But yeah, extensive voice acting just seems to me like something video games do now because developers think they have to.

    1. ET says:

      For the most part, all the voiced lines actually lowered my immersion, because they’re all unskippable.
      So, 99% of the time, I’ve got all the keyboard/mouse button sequences memorized, and then I run into a non-skippable voice line, and it’s like the game just shouted “REMEMBER, THIS IS ONLY A GAME! STOP TRYING TO DO THINGS I DON’T LIKE FOR YOU TO DO!”

    2. acronix says:

      Implying that immersion is immediately broken by the fantastical existence of dragons is not something I’d recommend. Immersion isn’t about something being or not fantastical but making the player believe that the fantastical world -could exist as it is presented-. For that, all you need is consistency. Dragons are consistent with the theme and world, so they do not break immersion. Hitting someone with a big hammer, seeing him fall down spectacularly but not hearing any sound, or the animation being choppy or just bad does break immersion. In this case because consistency between the action (hitting), its result (dead man) and the visual and sound feedback is broken. It could also be broken if normally everything’s fine but then dragon’s die making squeeky toy noises.

      The problem I see with voice acting is that it occupies a lot of space and costs much more than unvoiced dialogue. This results in there being a lot less variety. What’s worse, it also results in flat characters with no personality when they speak because one voice actor needs to provide lines for a dozen NPCs who -also- share lines. For a game like Skyrim, it’s pretty bad.

    3. Tizzy says:

      It’s not an issue of “realism” as much as symbolic vs. depicted. The game represents a reality that we can picture, even though it is not realistic. Given that, the game can choose to depict it as close as possible to what you would see, or in abstractions.

      I am not super familiar with JRPGs, but it appears to me that, as a rule, they choose the way of abstraction.

      But it would feel very weird for Skyrim characters to not speak at all, when everything else about the game is depicted in such a literal way, from the graphics to the soundscape to the importance given to first-person play.

      1. ET says:

        “But it would feel very weird for Skyrim characters to not speak at all, when everything else about the game is depicted in such a literal way”
        Well, then that’s one more reason to not go for photo-realism, or photo-realistic-ish-ism like in Skyrim, when making a game.

        I already mentioned it in the comments for another post, but I’d much rather have had Skyrim in a non-photorealistic aesthetic.
        Like something that looks like an ink-sketch, or even a cel-shaded style.
        The ink-sketch would fit the Viking-era technology level of the world very well, I think. :)

        1. Tizzy says:

          No argument from me here. Except that I think that photo-realism is too strong. There is something about the way the game describes and immerses you in the world, starting with the 1st-person perspective but not simply limited to that, that could be done with much less realistic aesthetic choices, but STILL would feel weird without full voice-acting.

          A more “remote” and abstracted point of view would allow text-only dialogue more easily. Here, I am thinking about games like the original Fallout, or Baldur’s Gate and so on, where you never “touch” objects, are viewing event from above, etc. So that the game is much more openly showing you an abstraction of events rather than the events themselves.

          1. ET says:

            I wonder if there’s been any surveys on immersion, and different types of aesthetic, interfaces, camera modes, etc.
            Reason is, that for me, the camera mode and even the graphical fidelity overall, does less for me for immersion, than consistency and smoothness of the interface.
            (i.e. Stuff which contributes to you forgetting that the interface is there after a while.)
            I kinda want to know if I’m an outlier. ^^;

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              The problem is I don’t think there’s even a consistent definition of immersion, it became one of those words that devs or publishers just throw around which can mean anything from photo-realistic graphics, an epic scale story, checkpoint saving rather than save-at-will to some kind of arcane semi-invisible interface.

              And for some reasons a lot of devs seem to think that the secret to immersion is making the hud as obscure as possible so it doesn’t show up in the actual game. The problem is that it’s not the visibility of the hud that breaks the immersion, it’s when the player actually needs to look for it or search for it, or has to pause the game to go into a big skill screen, into a crafting screen, into the item picking interface, into material picking interface, click past the information on crafting odds…

          2. Veloxyll says:

            Also, in BG(2) Merchants still said hi, but without slowing you down from clicking the “LET ME SELL TRASH” button most of the time. And it had a nice compromise with having the first line from importantish NPCs voiced but the rest was just textwords.

  33. Earan says:

    Re: the NCR versus the Stormcloaks

    Whatever happens we have got
    The minigun and they have not

  34. Hal says:

    Oh, Josh, please don’t leave Solitude without grabbing the Wabbajack. It is the quintessential Cuftbertian weapon.

    1. TheMich says:

      Oh my God yes please! Sheogorath’s quest would also showcase one of the relatively rare cases of good writing on Bethesda’s part.

      1. Corpital says:

        I agree as hard as I can. Was even a bit sad even, when Josh passed the guy without stopping, love this quest.

        You open the quest area by shaking your hip, what more reason does someone need to do it?

    2. ET says:

      Hell, yes!
      I didn’t know this game had a friggin’ rod of wonder!

  35. Dragmire says:

    Hey Josh, have you tried walking through walls holding a plate or bowl ahead of you in order to clip through?

    I seriously can’t believe that made it into the final product but I hear that, while they knew about the problem, it was too hard to fix at that point.

    1. ET says:

      Oh, man, I forgot about this.
      Originally saw this, in the Game Grumps episode(s?) where Ross was speedrunning Skyrim. :P

  36. Mr Compassionate says:

    On a tangential note the combat in this game is abysmal! Dragon’s Dogma, Dark Souls, even Kingdoms of Amalur all have better combat than this either kinesthetically, tactically or both. Double handing a greataxe in Skyrim feels like gently scraping it across the opponents cheek while double handing a greataxe in any other modern RPG usually knocks enemies back, over or both at the same time. Even worse a hammer makes exactly the same sound effect as a sword, that’s just incredibly lazy.

    You could almost be forgiven for thinking that combat is some half baked tacked on side mechanic they rushed into the game at the last minute rather than the CORE MECHANIC of the ENTIRE F**KING GAME and what the player will be doing all the time for every questline including the ruddy bards guild.

    Even combat systems like the one in Dragon Age or Neverwinter Nights at least have the merit of tactical diversity but Skyrim combat is basically the Call of Duty sword equivalent.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      It may be one of the core gameplay mechanics but its not the core engagement of the game. That would be exploration. If you want a good hack and slash, there are plenty of other games for that, and you named a few. Skyrim can’t be beat in the exploration department.

      I’m just thankful that, once you have your Smithing, Enchanting and Armor/Weapon Skills of choice leveled, combat becomes an after thought that doesn’t keep you from enjoying your exploration. Its good that its a bit of a challenge in the beginning, but if it remained that hard (read time consuming) throughout the game it would feel bogged down.

      I haven’t played Dragon’s Dogma or Dark Souls but I have played Kingdoms of Amalur and while I agree that the combat is more visceral and pleasing, it certainly didn’t make up for what was lacking. The campaign was a half baked mess of good ideas and the world, while beautiful, wasn’t that interesting.

      1. Mr Compassionate says:

        Oh agreed entirely! Kingdoms of Amalur is pretty garbage and I couldn’t even finish it, The combat is its one redeeming feature and even that gets very repetitive very fast.

        Dragons Dogma is better than Skyrim in most regards except exploration as the areas all look very similar. Exploring these places IS much more exciting due to no fast travel very important day/night cycles and a focus on fewer yet more intense battles. However this doesn’t save it from the fact that if you are in it purely for biome variety then you are out of luck. Also the dungeons are pretty forgettable and scarce.

        Dark Souls actually has much more variety of locations, art assets and enemies plus the pacing and terrain variety to support it. I guess it depends on what kind of exploration you mean really, Skyrim technically has more dungeons and a bigger map but most of that stuff is reused art assets and the levels all feel nearly identical. Skyrim has beautiful vistas but so does Dark Souls.. actually I am just going to cut the pretence of objectivicty and just say Dark Souls is better. If you like looking at really big maps use Google Earth.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          The Explorer type of gamer is just as valid as the Killer or the Achiever. And thats what I am.

          That said, I’m sure Dark Souls is a great game and I was tempted to look into it but there’s no way I’m playing an undead hero on a doomed mission in a decaying dead purgatory world replete with hell scapes. Games like Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age are as dark as I can handle.

  37. Darren says:

    I doubt this will be read by anyone, but my understanding is that some mortals–or at least Nords–can Shout because of Kynareth. One of the shrines along the thousand steps leading to High Hrothgar says that she gifted the Voice to men, and I seem to recall the suggestion that this was why the Greybeards are pacifists: they study the Voice as gifted by Kyne (Kynareth) whereas the Dragonborn uses the Voice as gifted by Akatosh. In D&D terms, it’s the difference between a Wizard and a Warlock.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Could be one of those cases of unreliable narration. The Elder Scrolls is full of biased accounts of its own history.

      But good point. I read your post and it was worth mentioning.

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