Skyrim EP37: Lowlifé

By Shamus Posted Wednesday May 28, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 75 comments

Link (YouTube)

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?

It’s nonsense.

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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75 thoughts on “Skyrim EP37: Lowlifé

  1. Somebody at Bethesda need to hire Rutskarn as a co-game director for the next Elder Scrolls game.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’d buy all five of the Collector’s Editions if they did that.

  2. TMTVL says:

    I love how Josh runs around in a circle in the Ratway before checking his map, going back into the Flagon, and nobody even seems to notice.

    1. Hitch says:

      Everyone noticed. They just know by now that mentioning it will make him do it again.

  3. hborrgg says:

    Started at the bottom now we’re lowlifes.

    Also, I’m pretty sure you can unenchant the pugilist’s gloves and give the enchantment to heavy armor. That’s what Robbaz did in his how-to video at least.

    1. Josh says:

      Yeah, I mentioned this when I got them. It’s one of the few “cool” and unconventional enchantments you can actually use on other items.

      1. Ofermod says:

        I got the impression that you were saying the opposite, for some reason.

        1. Flock Of Panthers says:

          “Unenchantable” was the word used. So, can be unenchanted / cannot be enchanted

          Threw me for a minute too.

          1. Josh says:

            Yeah I realized in editing how unclear it came off; I meant to say “disenchant”.

    2. Hal says:

      You can, but the reward for it is spotty at best. The maximum value of the enchantment is 10 points*, as it currently is on the gloves. To get it that high, you have to max out your enchanting skill, a fairly difficult task. For your effort, you can now put that enchantment on gloves and rings. Congratulations; you’ve just doubled the effect to 20 points. Meanwhile, you can get more than that by putting a fire enchantment on a sword, which you can improve through blacksmithing, etc. Bah.

      * – Yes, there are ways to cheese this to get exponential improvements. Yes, enchantments can be juiced a bit more by getting perks from the pertinent schools of magic. My point still stands.

  4. Nick Powell says:

    I wonder why the whole thieves’ guild section of the game is so retarded. I mean… the whole game is retarded, but this is just so much worse.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Which makes it all the odder that the game seems so keen to ensure you go to Riften and not miss out on the TG quests. So very very keen. (True of other places too – Markarth springs to mind, and everyone + dog won’t shut up about the Mages’ College in Winterhold, but Riften is way out in pole position.)

      Nothing warranting a strike tag, but if you have a low spoiler tolerance then skip the below. Also this may not be the show for you just at present…]

      Off the top of my head:

      -Main questline
      -Dark Brotherhood questline
      -Face sculptor
      -Good luck avoiding unusual gems if not forewarned
      -The Rift part of the Civil War line (unusually if not uniquely) has you visit the town rather than assaulting a clown-car fort in the middle of nowhere

      And if you do go there – or rather when you do – you’ve got the chucklehead just inside the gate and/or Discount Sean Connery ready to grab your face and then we’re off to the TG races.


      1. Raygereio says:

        Which makes it all the odder that the game seems so keen to ensure you go to Riften and not miss out on the TG quests.

        Bethesda seems to have developed an odd fear of the player potentially missing content. This is why a lot of content is front-loaded and/or shoved down the player’s throat.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Indeed. They originally seemed kinda laid-back as regards Falkreath … but then if you get the Hearthfire DLC it’s Courier Time!

        2. Not to mention the fact that I’m sure others are tired of me repeating: Having no standards for attaining guild membership, let alone becoming the head (or even figurehead) of the organization.

          Given how many people STILL play this game, modded or not, you’d think Bethesda might realize that they can put whole swaths of content behind challenges and requirements and people would still buy it and actually, y’know, TRY TO MEET THE STANDARDS SET.

          I hate that a mage build can still become a Nightengale, or that a lunkhead meat-shield can become the Archmage.

          One other oft-harped-upon note: There should’ve been an option to help the Magical College complete its fall into the ocean. NOTHING done there produces ANYTHING positive, unless even larger methods of destroying the area are what one desires. Everything said about the college is pretty much true and the locals would be wise to just burn the place down.

          1. Henson says:

            Well, the College is the only reason Winterhold sees any kind of business. The merchants (i.e. one merchant and one innkeeper) surely hate the mages, but they don’t really have much choice; if the College falls, so does their business. And I can’t imagine it would be easy to just pack up all your heavy goods and travel through harsh snows and troll-infested lands to whatever the nearest town might be. Remember, you can’t hire a carriage from the city.

            I suppose that, if the whole town (twelve people?) left at once, they could try to get the guards to protect them…but the Jarl is the kind of stubborn fool who would dig his heels in and stay even after the College has fallen, so he would probably order his guards to stay, too.

            1. Shamus says:

              I actually like this because it’s the classic “college town” problem. The college creates chaos: Drunken students, vandalism, traffic headaches, general noise, real estate headaches, etc etc. The town hates the college (for good reason) but the town couldn’t exist without it.

              So much could be done with that idea. So many interesting quests and stories.

              But instead we have the Quest for The Big Ball of The Eternal MacGuffin.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            There’s what your GPA is and there’s what you can actually do. And those are two very different things.

            Whichever guild you join, you get things done for them before you make it to the top and these are things that they need done.

            Speaking from experience, a team of techies is not always best led by a techie. My first boss back when I was on a Service Desk was a non techie (though one who was teaching himself the basics he was by no means an expert) but he managed the team quite well. He handled personal issues effectively, went to bat for us with upper management to get resources we needed and coordinated our efforts.

            My next boss came from a Networking team. He was horrible. Lots of politically incorrect remarks, increased stress, not on our side, didn’t know how to organize us to get things done, and his technical skills hardly ever came in handy because he was in meetings and doing boss stuff. And when he did indulge himself and try to fix problems, it took him away from what he should have been doing. Some people do have both skillsets but if you have to pick one, pick the management skillset.

            A university president’s job is not necessarily to run the school. They can have people under them do that. My local university hired their last president on the basis of his fundraising capabilities and connections.

            Point is, its not always about having the same occupational skills as your subordinates.

            The College of Winterhold requires you to do one of three things before you are allowed in the door:
            1) Cast a spell (demonstrating basic arcane proficiency and if I recall it has to be one of the next level spells)
            2) Reveal your status as the dragonborn. (revealing a somewhat unique and surely intriguing set of powers that would be of interest to their scholars) OR
            3) Persuade Faralda with a Speechcraft check. (revealing your people skills).

            From there, you go on dungeon delves hunting down relics and lore allowing other students to study. And of course there’s the Psijic order’s endorsement which I agree shouldn’t be enough on its own but when combined with other talents and uses you prove you have, puts you plausibly in a position to lead.

            Its even moreso with the Thieves. Sure maybe you’re not the best lockpicker or sneak but somehow you’re getting the things they need done. And in that case in addition to the main quest stuff, you have to do at bare minimum 25 radiant theft jobs and then 5 special jobs each of which gives you a contact in a major hold. And help establish a trade relationship with the Khajiit fencers.

            I’m calling it plausible.

            Also, with regard to your other complaint, I’m playing Morrowind right now. I’m the Archmage of the Guild and the Archmagister of Telvanni. Now I’m satisfied with how I got to those positions which basically amounts to lots of bootlicking and backstabbing, which seems appropriate given how people in both groups behave. But what do they contribute? They may sell some stuff but so does the College (remember one of the radiant quests lets you run enchanted goods to people). And they seem cutthroat and paranoid. The Telvanni, the rival mages, keep slaves. The College of Winterhold at least has a pretty impressive looking library. You want to burn all those books?

            1. This can be boiled down to a few questions:

              1. Was your boss ever suspected of having something to do with anything called “The Great Collapse?”
              2. Did your boss oversee any projects that never produced anything other than useless results, if not dangerous spheres of uncontrollable destruction?

              Swap “magic” with “nuclear reactor experimentation” or maybe “biological weaponization” and I think you’d change your tune about the college.

              As for the library, just don’t do any of the orc’s fetch quests and half the books will remain safely scattered around Skyrim. Problem solved.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                “As for the library, just don't do any of the orc's fetch quests and half the books will remain safely scattered around Skyrim. Problem solved.”

                Except no. The whole point of a library is for books to be in a place where they’re easily located. What you propose would accomplish the opposite.

                Besides, I’m defending the Dragonborn taking over, not the current Archmage. Your analogy fails because DB actively averts the next Great Collapse and keeps a dangerous weapon out of the wrong hands proving that he is in fact a good steward. The Saarthal ruins are already somewhat opened up when you show up. If you hadn’t found it, someone else from the College would have because they were already there.

        3. Tizzy says:

          “Bethesda seems to have developed an odd fear of the player potentially missing content.”

          And there is so much of it, too! It feels like drinking from a fire hose. I’ve leveled up characters into the 40’s on half the map, without even trying!

  5. Jokerman says:

    I do think them little chests are cute though… i see one and say “awww little chesty westy… with the wittle locks and screws, im gonna open it if i can find the wittle key.”

    1. Chris Rasmus says:

      I hope you’re a chick.


      1. Jokerwoman says:

        Of course…

      2. Moddington says:

        God forbid someone act outside their alignment gender.

    2. I do a lot with vector art, and improper scaling bugs the heck out of me. I don’t mind if they want to make things bigger or smaller within reason. It’s when they don’t adjust the level of detail (line weight, for the most part) that things start to look “off” to me.

  6. Jay says:

    Riften sure has a lot of underground stuff for a city with canals. Shouldn’t all those tunnels have flooded a long time ago, and stayed that way? It’s like trying to build a mine in New Orleans; it just shouldn’t work.

    1. evileeyore says:

      Uhhh…. they have salt mines all over Louisiana.

      Granted they have some pretty spectacular sinkhole problems there because of it. Lake Peginuer in particular.

      1. Lachlan the Mad says:

        My hometown is built on a former swamp beside the ocean, and the entire city is riddled with old coalmines. We had some sinkholes open up under a beachside suburbs a couple of days ago. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the local Mine Subsidence Board has an animal mascot to teach kids to stay away from sinkholes.

        No, really.

        1. Jay says:

          Usually it takes pumps driven by steam power, at least, to keep mines from flooding in an area with a high water table.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Didnt you see the door?It was closed the whole time,so the tunnels had no way of flooding.

      1. Humanoid says:

        You had better make sure you open it outwards when you leave though.

  7. hborrgg says:

    So, If you come here as part of the main quest and ask Brijornholf (sp) where to find Esbern and he’ll say something along the line of “I can tell you, but first you need to do some things for me”.

    Then if you agree, he starts you down the awful Thieves’ Guild questline and begins acting as if you always wanted to be a master thief and completely forgets about the information he was supposed to give you.

    1. Tizzy says:

      But if you know where to go to find Esbern, you can safely ignore Brynjolf, sidestep the whole thing and you never have to start the Thieves Guild questline…

      1. hborrgg says:

        Yeah, at least it’s only pretending to force you into the thieves’ guild and not literally forcing you to join like the game does with the mage’s guild.

  8. Jan says:

    Pretty sure that nobody who works at Bethesda knows more about the lore than Rutskarn, but this guy just might.

    He left during the development of Morrowind, which might explain a lot about the later games.

  9. Jason-L says:

    I figured since the Guild folks come in and out through the secret graveyard entrance, the rest of the place is set up to stop folks from wandering the sewers and finding their clubhouse. It’s to discourage visitors, basically.

    And the bar tender doesn’t need customers … he’s basically working at the club house bar for the guildmates.

    1. mhoff12358 says:

      Y’know what also keeps people away from your front entrance? Replacing the door with a brick wall. Its a large one time investment, but it would probably cut down on their bear trap and beggar budget.

      1. Flock Of Panthers says:

        Eh. If they bricked up the front entrance, wandering paladins would know there must be another entrance.

        Leave the trapped entrance there, and you eliminate a decent number of high level but dumb adventurers.

  10. TouToTheHouYo says:

    You can pick your friends, and you can pick your lock, but you can’t pick your friends lock. You have to let them be who they are, and pick it themselves.

    ~ Chris Franklin (kinda)

  11. Corpital says:

    Ah, Riften. Once the greatest city in Skyrim, but then it burned down and was replaced by a slum. Just like Winterhold was the greatest city ever, until all of it vanished into the ocean.

    It really is mind boggling how every single thing in the ratway makes no sense, every thing is as dumb as the whole and it is a whole lot of dumb. I can’t even decide what to complain about, couldn’t find a proper place to start, like a Mà¶bius strips made out of solidified stupid.

  12. MichaelGC says:

    Quickload strikes again! I just went back and checked, ‘cos I’m a bit anal like that, and Catbert somehow manages to sell the same Woodcutter’s Axe to Geraldo Riviera twice whilst abusing the attack/F9 glitch. Presumably Jenny also got her copy back at the same time; possibly because as far as the game could recall, she had it actually equipped (if only for a second in between the shiv & the bow).

    I wonder if that would work with more expensive or even unique weapons? Seems like that would be a good way to make a fat pile o’ cash pretty quickly! What with the whole running-low-on-funds thing being one of the major challenges of the game ‘n’ all…

    1. Josh says:

      I had heard you could potentially use this bug to dupe items…

      1. MichaelGC says:

        You could retire from dragonborning and set up a stall.

        Wabbajacks! Git chore Wabbajacks ‘ere! Buy five Ebony Blades and get a free Jagged Crown!

        1. lostclause says:

          “Get your Jagged Crown, be the king of the Nords! Great for kids!*”

          *Cuftbert’s emporium is not responsible for accidental impaling or being shouted to bits by grumpy jarls.

        2. Lachlan the Mad says:

          I’ve often wondered what’s going to happen when my character dies, and the kids she adopts inherit her house and open her Big Box of Daedric Artefacts…

    2. Trix2000 says:

      Pretty sure the one she had in this episode she picked up from the ground herself – there was an axe on the floor as they came in, and when Josh found her with the axe she was standing about where it’d been… and it was gone from the floor.

      I assume it’s just a function NPCs have when they’re unarmed – to pick up a nearby weapon if they can. She was punching people just prior.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Oooo – well spotted!

  13. Ofermod says:

    How is it that no one mentioned the Flagon with the image of the Dragon when Mumbles asked what one was? It has a pellet with poison in it!

    1. Jack Kucan says:

      “Dragon Flagon” is fun to say. :V

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Agree completely. With you on that one. All-aboard the “Dragon Flagon” Wagon!

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I will happily board on “Dragon Flagon” Wagon!

        2. Hal says:

          You’re too proud! I won’t board this braggin’ “Dragon Flagon” wagon!

          1. Cybron says:

            My enthusiasm for this Dragon Flagon Wagon is flaggin’.

            1. syal says:

              Hey, don’t go raggin’ on the Dragon Flagon Wagon.

    2. MadHiro says:

      But was there a mirror with a leer?

    3. Lupis42 says:

      They all drank from the Vessel with the Pestle, before it was replaced by the Chalice from the Palace.

      Link for the confused:

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Id rather have the glass with the drink from…oh wait,that came out wrong……

      2. Thank you for posting that. Kids these days…

        1. Ofermod says:

          I really am surprised that it took so long for anyone to get the reference.

  14. Raygereio says:

    You seem to be constantly getting lost because you have dozens of markers pointing in every direction on your compass. You do know you can deactivate the questmarks for quests you’re not currently doing, right?

    Re: Chris’ comments about the Thalmor conflict being the main story.
    Not really. That’s the backstory of Skyrim’s setting. The Thalmor have nothing to do with the whole dragon business. The way they’re shoved into the main quest actually felt really awkward and in particular the embassy quest ended up feeling pointless and like a massive waste of time.

    1. Flock Of Panthers says:

      Well, part of it is weird to discuss because for a lot of the time it feels like the Dragons and the Civil War are competing for Main Plot status. When I find myself talking about the Main Plot, I find I’m talking about either one.

      But the thalmor feel like they were meant to be major.
      Introduced in the opening of the game, appearences in both the main quests, always talked up significantly. In backstory they are responsible for the civil war, and eliminating the Blades has probably made the dragon situation worse.

      At the same time they, they don’t appear to achieve or even attempt anything after you finish naming your character. So they do fail to live up to any reputation they might have had.
      Sadly though, that’s the same for most of the factions in the game. It is more of a pronounced flaw for the Meglomanaical Magical Inquisition than the League of Extra-Ornery Dog-Gentlemen, though, which makes the Thalmor stand out.

      1. Tizzy says:

        In the main quest, almost everyone is doing something in reaction to the Thalmor. If they weren’t there, nothing would be happening.

        Does it make them the “main story”? That’s such a loaded term for an Elder Scrolls game anyway…

  15. AJax says:

    The amount of unkillable NPCs this game shoves down your throat is getting absolutely absurd. Like there is no good reason like almost the entirety of the Thieves’ guild are invulnerable. Good thing I didn’t reach this moronic section of the game.

    1. Tizzy says:

      The reason is the usual one: the devs do not want you to inadvertently miss out on *any* content in this ridiculously sprawling game, so, as long as a character is involved in any lousy generic radiant quest or whatever, the character will be unkillable. Bah!

  16. To be fair regarding the lack of bodies in a trapped area: You’d WANT to clear out the corpses, as their presence gives away that a trap is there and possibly how to avoid it.

    The bar reminds me of a now-defunct one in Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. They used to have this attraction my wife and I won free tickets to called “Caesar’s Magical Kingdom” or somesuch. You went down in a room-sized elevator and had three magic acts to watch. In the middle of all of this was a very disgruntled bartender who had ONLY the tourists who came through the elevator (buying/winning tickets to do so) as his source of tips, which were pretty light. It probably didn’t help that half the clientele couldn’t order adult beverages.

    So maybe the bartender is being punished for something. “Your latest screw-up means you have to run the bar nobody can get to. Deal with it.”

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      Wait…Caesar managed to take over Vegas? Oh dear.

      1. I never thought about that before. While they couldn’t have a 1 to 1 copy of Caesar’s Palace in New Vegas, a casino that was a front for the Legion would’ve been kind of funny.

  17. czhah says:

    “Khajiit male, believed to be Reginald Catbert (may be an alias)..”
    For some reason this note amused more than it propably should have.

  18. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Side discussion. People keep saying that first person is ‘obviously’ the way to play Skyrim. I’ve never played Skyrim that way (Sometimes I jump into first person when I’m having trouble grabbing an object) is it just me?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Well, I hugely prefer it first-person, to the point where I can’t get into being a werewolf even though I’d quite like to, but I would guess that there’s plenty of people who prefer third-person just as strongly. (Albeit for a subsection of that group only temporarily whilst admiring themselves in their awesome outfits, which is not to mention any names which may, or may not, have rhymed with ‘famous’ & ‘tumbles’ if hypothetically I’d mentioned names, which I didn’t.)

      It has just occurred to me (following a slapped forehead and a side-order of “d’oh”) – are there any first-person werewolf mods out there that folk could recommend?

      1. Cinebeast says:

        Immersive First Person View features, among other things, a highly-configurable first person viewpoint for werewolves.

        It’s a pretty high-maintenance mod and requires a lot of in-game tweaking, but for me it’s become invaluable.

        Related to Wide and Nerdy’s question, I prefer switching between first and third person depending on the situation. For example, walking outdoors or in town = third person, sneaking or fighting indoors = first person, and so forth.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Thanks very much!

    2. Joe says:

      Yeah, third person all the way, except for archery.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Archery, and grabbing loot. And I wish the third person was even more markedly third person (camera further away), the way it appears to be in TESO.

        I guess it would depend if you’re using a controller or keyboard and mouse, as well.

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