In the past we’ve praised Bethesda for environmental storytelling. You look around some area, observe the placement of items, and find that they tell a story. It makes the place seem richer and more real.
The ratway is not that. The ratway is the opposite of that. The ratway is a place where the world stops making sense and you have to make up your own story to mentally patch the nonsense.
Well, I suppose the thieves put up all the traps to kill all the beggars? For some reason? And the bartender… I guess he doesn’t want customers? And Gian the Fist is standing in the corner of a featureless room because he… uh… is guarding the bear traps? You know, the ones that he blunders into when he comes to fight you. And the rats have been specially trained to only attack people who aren’t already inhabitants of the sewers. And the semi-furnished rooms with fresh food in the middle of the sewer maze are probably just a pantry. For the distant bar. I guess. And the hobos that live down here are in peaceful harmony with the rats and each other, but then attack dangerous-looking travelers because… cult, maybe?
Also: Dr. Rutskarn, Professor of Elder Scrolls Studies at Chocolate Hammer University, has begun a new course, which you can attend via this handy link: The Altered Scrolls: Arena (Part 1: Storyline and Worldbuilding).
I’m prepared to believe that Dr. Rutskarn knows more about the Elder Scrolls than most of the people working at Bethesda. I don’t know if that’s a dig at Rutskarn, or at Bethesda, but I’m pretty sure it’s a dig at somebody.
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