The Altered Scrolls, Part 15: Thoreau’s Razor

By Rutskarn Posted Saturday Dec 19, 2015

Filed under: Elder Scrolls 104 comments

So what’s the big difference between Skyrim and Oblivion? What draws the line of burning gasoline between what the series used to be and what it’s probably going to be forever?

Simply, they simplified. They made the game more straightforward and turned everything upside-down in the process.

Processes of simplification have occurred before in this franchise, but never quite under these circumstances. The first big features cull took place between Daggerfall and Morrowind when the latter title dropped half the former’s skills and subsystems, but this was a move born from the strictest pragmatism; most of the stuff dropped just plain didn’t work. Morrowind‘s developers were soberly aware of what they could actually make interesting and worthwhile and while they clearly wanted to preserve the same basic feeling Daggerfall contained, and wanted as much complexity in the game as possible, they were no longer willing to just throw something in there just for the hell of it, just in case somebody liked it. Which had been the prevailing design philosophy since the original epic of feature creep that spawned the series, but never mind. It was time to exercise discipline and restraint.

Comfortable, repetitive scenarios make up a lot of Skyrim's gameplay.
Comfortable, repetitive scenarios make up a lot of Skyrim's gameplay.

Oblivion was a step beyond that, but only one step. Morrowind had axed broken stuff, stuff that should be trimmed. Oblivion was happy to axe things that merely could be trimmed. If Long Blade and Short Blade could be combined into Blade, if Axes and Blunt Weapons could be merged, if a couple of the less-popular factions could be quietly discontinued, then perfect; the result would be leaner and let the developers focus on the core elements. There were new features as well, but for the most part, everything was based around improving mechanics that had been allowed to stick around.

Skyrim was far more extreme than either title. It was no longer about fussily paring down the same system; it was about questioning why those systems had to exist in the first place. One could pretty well predict the shrinking of the game’s cruft from Morrowind onward, but nobody could predict just how drastically things dropped off with game V.

Character creation no longer consists of choosing a name, race, class or set of class skills, and birthsign relative to starting stats. It consists of choosing a name and race, because none of the rest of that stuff–class, class skills, birthsigns, stats–really exists. All of it was unceremoniously jettisoned. In a very real sense, character creation became avatar creation. It wasn’t about creating a fictional set of capabilities, but rather, customizing the visual and thematic presence of the player within the world.

Stats, you see, weren’t important anymore.

Stats have a complicated role in any given RPG, but they serve two basic functions, prescriptive and managerial. The latter function is the technical one: you have stats to provide a common base for how well you perform certain kinds of related tasks. In games like the Elder Scrolls titles wherein each task is a separate skill that improves with practice, this has a pretty limited and abstract effect. Most wouldn’t even notice it if it stopped working overnight.

Pretty, in a monochrome single-textured sunbleached sort of way.
Pretty, in a monochrome single-textured sunbleached sort of way.

The first role is more important to most games; having stats tells the player succinctly what they can and cannot do. Stats provide a broad and usually semipermanent sense of a character’s strengths and weaknesses; in most titles the strengths grow stronger and the weaknesses remain in limbo, neither aggravating nor lessening. A high-level barbarian is no smarter than a novice one and a wizard grandmaster would be as unlikely to arm-wrestle a biker as his apprentice. Stats, bad ones especially, give a player an idea of which kinds of actions shouldn’t be attempted at all.

Elder Scrolls games have never exactly wanted to deliver that kind of hard no. A few contrasting guild faction-lines aside, that’s never been the kind of experience it’s set out to deliver: it’s not interested in who your character is so much as what your character does, and it’s always been more eager to frame that as a function of player choice than character ethos. Rarely in the series has your character been able to express a perspective to a nonplayer character; dialogue is constrained instead to “I will do this” or “I will not do this,” and the choice is framed bloodlessly and generally as possible. Even the richest and deepest of the titles act as fictional worlds to explore, not inhabit. So why keep stats around if they’re not going to help that ideal?

It’s easy to say, daring to put into principle. Skyrim was not playing it safe by getting rid of the stat system. Why was it so important that the risk of alienating the playerbase as deemed worthwhile? And why is it this approach is the one that’s probably going to steer the franchise until judgment day?

Because it’s a shrewd commitment to principles. Skyrim is what you get when you realize the trappings of traditional RPG character design and creation are secondary to the purpose of open-world gamers. Skyrim is what you get when you question whether you’re an RPG at all.

Next week: Probably nothing, because Holidays. Have a good one!


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104 thoughts on “The Altered Scrolls, Part 15: Thoreau’s Razor

  1. Cinebeast says:

    You too, Rutskarn!

    Also, good job. Wish I could add anything more substantive. I remember you mentioned at some point earlier on that Fallout 4 affected your opinion of Bethesda’s design ethos? I’m interested to see what you meant by that.

    1. krellen says:

      Fallout 4 definitely shows this “are we even really an RPG” thing. The way advancement and character generation works ensures the player is never locked out of a build; it’s all opportunity costs but the opportunities never run out.

      1. Humanoid says:

        My feeling is that while Skyrim merrily dumped the “we’re an RPG” thing whole hog, Fallout 4 suffered comparatively because it feels at various points that they’d forgotten about that fundamental change of philosophy. Skyrim’s setting and writing (or lack thereof) embraced and went hand in hand with its system changes. Fallout 4 seems to have been conceived at least in part without acknowledgement or even realisation that those changes had been made.

        Case in point: In Fallout 4 you can inadvertently set yourself irreversibly against a faction by merely talking to a questgiver in another faction who automatically gives you a quest to wipe out their enemies. In Skyrim the inability to refuse a quest was irrelevant, you took the quest because, well, why wouldn’t you? There were no possible repercussions for taking it, and if you didn’t want to do it, well, you just didn’t do it.

        I can say unreservedly that I enjoyed Skyrim. It is the only Bethesda game I can say that of. I most certainly cannot say the same of Fallout 4, the damp squib of 2015.

        1. wswordsmen says:

          You don’t mention the exception that proves the rule. The Civil War quest warns you that you won’t be able to do the other side of the war if you choose a side. The warning ensures that you will know exactly what you are doing. I assume a similar thing in FO4 would be when you try and talk to the quest giver it warns you it will make you permanently hostile to [get_faction_name] and give you the chance to back out.

          1. Humanoid says:

            I am told there is no such warning, or even a dialogue prompt. An NPC will monologue at you and in doing so will trigger the hostilities, the only way to avoid it being to know in advance to avoid that NPC triggering dialogue at all costs.

            Now I gave up on Fallout 4 some way short of doing any of that so it’s very much second-hand info, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m way off base.

            1. wswordsmen says:

              I wasn’t saying it exists (in FO4). I was saying if it did exist it would be in that form.

              I am very sure at some point there is a warning in Skyrim though.

            2. It depends on which faction you pursue actively. I got a popup warning when Father sent me to off the Railroad execs and I told the Railroad people I was planning to help them instead–I then proceeded to get warned that the Brotherhood would now be permanently hostile to me. So there are at least some combos where you’ll get a warning.

              1. Michael says:

                The Institute Path clearly signposts when you’re going to antagonize a faction.

                Also, taking X6-88 into the Railroad HQ will turn the Railroad permanently hostile because… “no, really, what did you expect would happen?”

                I’m not sure about the other faction routes, though. So far, my Railroad run hasn’t gotten to the point where I’m turning anyone hostile, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all four runs at this point with any kind of attention to detail.

                1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                  On the other hand I was kinda surprised when Danse didn’t even make a passing comment when I dropped by with Nick in tow…

                  1. Michael says:

                    Danse does get pissy when you swap him out for Nick/Strong/X6/Curie (I think)/Hancock as a companion.

                2. Ayegill says:

                  If you progress the BOS questline far enough, they’ll tell you to go kill the railroad. You can’t refuse the quest, and once you get it, you’re instantly hostile to the railroad.

        2. Andy_Panthro says:

          The quests are a bit of an annoyance for me, especially in Skyrim but it feels like it goes back to Oblivion. I’d really rather not just have every NPC assume that I’ll do every single quest that comes my way, especially now that they have those awful “radiant quests” things.

          My most recent Skyrim quest (before I ditched it for Fallout 4), was to extinguish a lighthouse at the behest of a shady argonian. He seems to exist only to give you this quest, and there seemed to be no way to shop him to the police (I’m trying to play a hero here, after all). I decided to follow through the quest to see at which point I could avert a disaster, but all I ended up doing was killing those who had sunk/raided the ship, and feeling rather disappointed in the whole thing.

          Still, I suppose even that is better than an endless repeat of going to a random location and either killing all the bad guys or finding a small item. That was enough for me in the Arena/Daggerfall era, but it is needless padding here.

          1. Humanoid says:

            Oh definitely, the Tab to terminate conversation feature in Skyrim is a godsend, and I definitely did it to avoid picking up quests like certain Companion or Thieves’ Guild ones. But the key is that even if you do accept them, it really has no impact whatsoever on the world, other than the fact that the quest is now in your quest log. In a game so utterly generic, it’s hard to mind. It barely even attempts to allow roleplaying, and I played along with that well enough.

            Fallout 4 on the other hand, tries earnestly but incompetently at this roleplaying thing it’s heard so much about. It attempts to give dialogue options that convey different emotions. It attempts to assign motivations to your character. It even occasionally tries to give you the chance to express an opinion on things. But the current Standard Bethesda Game Template is ill-suited, if not entirely incapable, of accommodating game elements like that.

            1. Andy_Panthro says:

              I certainly appreciate the attempt in Fallout 4 to make everything very colourful/zany/over-the-top wherever possible. It makes it far more enjoyable than the rather dour and monochrome world of Skyrim, of which I was initially impressed but became frustrated at it’s static nature.

              1. Christopher says:

                THe thing is, I don’t mind the voice acting. I feel both voice actors do a decent job. My problem is Bethesda decided to do blank slate + voiced, which I don’t think works. If they had given the character more personality depending on what choices you picked, that might be a thing. I would have liked to hear more commentary on the world BEFORE the war from my character. What memories do they have of these places?

                I’m much more ok with playing a more pre-determined character IF the character has character.

                In this case they tried to have it both ways and it sort of fell flat.

          2. Michael says:

            I could have sworn there was an option to out him to a guard.

            Anyway, to be fair, Skryim casts you as a Sword and Sorcery hero in the vein of Fritz Lieber or Robert E. Howard’s stuff… so the occasional criminal enterprise is kinda par for the course. But, then the game does a really poor job of signposting that, and gleefully slams you face first into genre conventions you’re not expecting… like, this one.

            1. Tom H. says:

              If I recall correctly, some of those options are available in dialog if you happen to talk to the right person but are *not* signposted in the quest journal. A (very) few betrayal options *are* noted in the quest journal, but that just means people are less likely to look for alternate ways out when the

              Skyrim’s The Taste of Death is one that really gets me that way. You don’t have any forewarning of the nature of the quest, which is quite dark (wish my kids hadn’t found it!), and they’ve made provisions for you to betray the questgiver – but doing so is not signposted in the journal and is recorded as a failure.

        3. Elric says:

          I was surprised to see that dropping the stats in Skyrim worked so well for the game. But in hindsight, the reason was obvious: in Oblivion the stats were a constant annoyance to the player because you were under constant pressure to maximize them on level ups, forcing you to micromanage what skills you trained to get the maximum stat increase. This actually hindered your gameplay (I really want to raid that dungeon, but I should stop fighting as raising my blade skill will waste that skillpoint, I should do more bartering instead to get that +5 personality increment…)
          Removing this niggling feature turned out to be a godsend for the overall enjoyment of the game (for me at least).

          I didn’t play Fallout 4 yet (I always wait about a year or so for the patches), but I’m not happy about the removal of the stats. The difference is that the stats actually work very well in the Fallout games. There is no annoying micro-management involved, for one thing, and the stats play a constant role in the dialogue and other gameplay options available to you, making them really meaningful. So in this way the Fallout stats always were much better integrated in the game than Elder Scrolls stats. I think dropping them was a mistake.

          1. Michael says:

            Fallout 4 is actually the opposite of Skyrim. You still have the Stats. The skills got moved over to being more… I guess “keyword” based would be the best way to describe it.

            So you still have a strength score, for example. What you don’t have is an Unarmed Skill. Instead you’ve got perks (similar to the ones in Skyrim), that will increase your unarmed damage, or your melee damage, or increase the lifespan on powered armor Fusion Cores, or let you breathe under water, ect.

            So, when you level up, instead of getting 14 skill points to spend, and hoping you raise the appropriate skill enough to do what you want… you get one perk, and can spend that to get the same effect you would have from putting your skill points somewhere. These are then gated by your level and your attributes. So if you want to make a stealth character you need 4 points in Agility for the basic harder to detect bonus, and 7 for increased backstab damage.

          2. Abnaxis says:

            When I first picked up Skyrim, my initial reaction to the leveling system was positive. It closely reflected the mods I had set-up in Oblivion to straighten out the way attributes worked–namely I had a mod installed that automatically calculated attributes from skill levels, so e.g. your character would get stronger as they leveled blunt or more charismatic as they leveled Speechcraft. It also automatically calculated you effective character level, with adjustable weightings for different skills so you don’t screw yourself for over-leveling Speechcraft/Mercantile.

            The problem is, they ripped too much out for Skyrim. Attributes were on of the primary ways the old games differentiated between different races. Also, in my modded system, those class skills really helped define a starting character, because they (in part) defined a character’s starting attributes. Finally, since they took out Attributes (rather than adding them) it’s really, really damned hard to add them back in.

            For someone like me, who likes starting a lot of different characters with different concepts, it sucked a sizable chunk of the fun out of the game

      2. Darren says:

        Fallout 4 feels far more system-driven than Skyrim. The stats might not matter all that much, but the Perks definitely do, and they impact how you approach the rest of the game.

  2. Da Mage says:

    There is another telling sign I’ve noticed with character role palying. In Morrowind you could see your rank in each faction, each rank had a special name and gave you perks with that faction. They were also hard to achieve if your character did not have the right skills, hence a master of the thieves guild would be a master at thief skills.

    In Oblivion the names and ranks system stayed…but was hidden off in it’s own menu. You now ‘ranked up’ in a faction simply by completing quests. Those ranks still meant something, as each faction had special perks as you got higher, but even a 10 intelligence barbarian could become Grandmaster of the Mages guild by crushing necromancer skulls.

    Then in Skyrim there are no ranks. You are sometimes referred to as a certain rank in dialogue, but none of it means much and it’s not actually listed anywhere. You become the leader of a faction simply by completing the 10 or so story quests for the faction. There are side quests, but they are mostly generated quests and completely optional. In order to allow any character style (psychical combat, stealth combat or magic combat), the main quests you have to do normally fall in the ‘go to place, kill everything, get mcguffin and return’.

    Bethesda, like many games developers, seem to have caught the ‘The player must be able to do everything, and we must point them to the content so they don’t miss it’ bug. It’s not about role playing for Bethesda anymore, now they just want to make a sandbox. And I don’t even blame Todd Howard for it, I blame the Pete Hines types that are constantly wanting to expand the userbase.

    1. Nidokoenig says:

      The bigger issue is that a quest in a modern game costs ‘umpty-dumpty thousand to make just by itself, when you account for voice acting and play testing, so walling it off is a bigger decision than it used to be. Having branches, like making quests where the obvious solution is guild-relevant but you can get the MacGuffin by other means, might just work, but it would require the primary interaction with the guild to be receiving unsupervised fetch quests.

      1. Radkatsu says:

        And yet Obsidian managed it just fine on a shoestring budget and a mere 18 months to ship a finished product. It can be done if the developer gives enough of a crap.

        1. Hector says:

          While I have some criticisms of Obsidian, those guys do not overlook any detail. They may be limited by budget, but one can say they do thoroughly explore the little details games they create. If customizing a menu helps build the game, they will go all out to customize a menu that enhances the experience.

          It bothers me to say this, but Triple-A developers these days seem to phone it in the small, cheap stuff. And that’s just weird. You should never need an extra five million and six months to polish the interface. It's something which should be build-able in small form right from the start for almost no cost, and which you can improve throughout development for a pittance. And this principle isn't limited to interfaces, of course: these little touches are a multiplier for game quality. It may be a small multiplier, but it adds up over time and delivers excellent value-per-dollar spent.

          1. Da Mage says:

            And yet what is boggling is that Bethesda cannot make an interface to save themselves. Every interface they make ends up really clunky and hard to use.

            Sure the Morrowind menus were really busy, but at least everything was on a single page and could be done without clicking through 3 sub-menus to equip a weapon.

            1. Humanoid says:

              Bethesda seems inordinately proud of the perk chart they made for Fallout 4, to the extent that they went to all the extra expense of making physical copies of it to ship with game discs. But it’s a terrible design, the largely vertical nature of it means you can’t see all the information at a glance, the art absolutely dominates the information it tries to convey and text is very difficult to read.

              The physical poster is particularly useless because it conveys no information whatsoever, so it’s useless as a game aid, but the detail is too small to make it worth anything as wall decoration, where it’s just a blob of pixels.

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                I think for a little while, maybe even for a first few levels, I actually somehow missed the information that the perk chart went beyond a single screen and could be scrolled.

                1. GloatingSwine says:

                  I know a lot of people didn’t realise that the perk chart wasn’t restricted and they didn’t have to have the lower level perks to unlock the higher level ones.

                  This is probably understandable because the only place it explicitly says this (rather than just making available perks a slightly different flavour of shaded out to unavailable ones) was in a prerelease video.

                  And yes, the UI overall is bollocks, it’s fiddly to use, wastes at least 25% of the available screen area on surrounding greeble, and is amazingly poorly organised. Like even worse than Fallout 3’s version, where at least things like notes and holotapes had their own little place to live rather than just being in a Misc menu with hundreds of other entries of which you can see maybe 15 at once, and also had an indicator whether they were read or unread which has also disappeared now.

                  It is, quite possibly, the worst UI bethesda have made, even including the page full of tiny fiddly nonsense that was Morrowind’s.

                  1. Da Mage says:

                    No, I feel Skyrim’s UI was still much worse. At least Fallout 4 has a thematically nice UI and less mouse clicks to do things.

                    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                      It’s been a while but I think my money is on Skyrim too. Particularly because there was absolutely no good reason for the “swipe” menu to be in there.

                    2. EmmEnnEff says:

                      Skyrim’s UI may have been worse, but Skyrim didn’t encourage hoarding to nearly the scale that Fallout 4 does.

                  2. Michael says:

                    Honestly, the single biggest offender in the misc tab is probably the keys and passwords. Those alone artificially inflate the contents of that tab to unusable levels, while simultaneously being impossible to remove. At least you can dump the notes and holotapes once you’ve finished their associated quests (with a few, very annoying, exceptions).

                    The part that’s baffling was, in Fallout 3 those were stored on a key ring, so you’d see it in your inventory, but never need to worry about it. Now they’re just splattered all over your inventory.

  3. Abnaxis says:

    This. This, right here, is why I hate the direction Bethesda has taken the Fallout Scrolls

    A large reason for stats in an RPG is not just to say what your character can and cannot do, but to communicate with the game, an an abstract sort of way, who you character is . In a video game, that largely breaks down into “what your character can/can’t do,” but more broadly stats should shape both how you interact with the sandbox world as well as how the world reacts to you.

    That was a large part of the magic in Morrowind for me–if you play a Khajiit, the game acknowledges your choice as a player. You can begin the game (rather than spending time training yourself to not be total crap) with a Khajiit style of play, factions react differently to you, and some tasks essentially permanently become easier/harder from your attributes.

    By contrast, in Skyrim if you choose to be a Khajiit, you get to look like a cat while you talk to all the exact same people in the exact same way, and are exactly as skilled in everything as the last play-through when you choose to look like an orc. For me, most of the fun of these games used to be trying different approaches with different characters and seeing how the world changes, and now that’s gone.

    In F4, the difference between a sneak character and a “never say die” character is a hand-full of levels and some skills points–hell, probably not even that if you aren’t interested in optimizing. There’s no reason to re-roll, because aything you would possibly want to do with a new character is 100% accessible to the character you are playing now, even if it makes no sense for it to be accessible.

    The worst part is, mods can’t help me here. I tried fixing this in Skyrim with some mods once, but the devs gutted out all the underlying support structure for attributes when they went in this direction.

    1. djw says:

      SkyRe and Requiem both added in a fairly extensive set of racial changes that make playing an Orc (for instance) feel very different from playing a Breton, as far as skills are concerned.

      There is another mod whose name I forget that I had installed a while ago that allows you to pick major and minor skills, and then gives you a bonus when leveling those skills. I can’t remember if there is a malus for leveling the non-chosen skills.

      None of the above changes does anything about how the world reacts to you though. If you play as Khajiit enemies will talk about how nice a rug you will make, and that is about it. Whatshername in Whiterun, who has a thing for Khajiit, will still offer to explain to you who and what the Khajiit are, which always seemed retarded to me.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Oh yes – I remember her: she needed a mammoth tusk to show what an awesome trader she was or something. So I spent aaaages save-scumming and trying to take down one of the mammoths in the camp right by Whiterun, which neither started nor ended well.

        I think we even got married once! Can’t remember her name, though. Fun times, fun times…

        1. Supahewok says:

          “I think we even got married once! Can't remember her name, though. Fun times, fun times…”

          And we have another entry for our newest game show, Gamer or Sociopath? Guess right, go home rich with the spoils of the pillaged! Guess wrong, get ganked! Who’s up next?

          1. MichaelGC says:

            This rates not only a LOL but also a CATFSHN.

            (Chuckling At This For Several Hours Now)

            1. Humanoid says:

              I thought that was a reference to the time Catbert cunningly disguised himself as a Catfeeeesh.

    2. Christopher says:

      I have to disagree with this.

      Stats, to me, have always seemed to be arbitrary limits that should only be brought in in the case of massive crippling negatives, such as a bad limb or a soft mind.

      Most people are capable of doing anything if they’re trained to do it, and take the time to train. I like the perk systems in fallout 4 because it allows me to build exactly the character I want to build from a IC perspective, with the one glaring flaw being the level limit. Even if she was a Lawyer, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t anything else. Maybe she also was in the army, and that’s the reason she hasn’t used her law degree.

      In Skyrim, depending your race you did have certain advantages. Khajit and Argonians do get a slight bonus to their sneaking stats, Bretons do get a slight bonus to their magic stat, etc. etc., but your no longer having to worry about not being able to beat the game because you chose to make an Orc wizard.

      1. Couscous says:

        There is a reason specialization exists in real life and there are not many master of all trades like you have in Skyrim and Fallout 4. People generally are only going to be able to get really good in a few fields and maintaining them requires a lot of work so their is effectively a cap. In Fallout 4, the player character is likely to be super intelligent, super strong, super charismatic, super skilled in a huge variety of disciplines, etc.

        Your example of the wife is good because she could have been in the army but wasn’t going to have been a trained combat soldier every branch of the military, a scientist in pretty much every field, an insanely good doctor, a blacksmith, and a merchant before the nukes fell.

        Stats can allow for specialization in a few things like in real life while not allowing a player to be the master of all trades.

        1. Ranneko says:

          Except that the stats in Fallout 3 didn’t really do that, as long as you had a high intelligence you could easily cap or almost cap every skill in the game, you could still become the omnidisciplined expert. Heck with broken steel you could also push all of your stats to 9s

      2. Humanoid says:

        Perks are just obfuscated stats, anyway, but this isn’t really about either in a direct sense. It seems to me the argument is about caps, or lack thereof. Latter day Bethesda games have the well-documented issue where a cap on individual stats/skills/perks/talents/whatever (I’ll generalise them as “abilities”, because in the end they’re all the same, a number representing character power), but no cap on level. In such a system, players cap out and get everything in every field because that’s the only thing they can do. “Oh, my agility is at 10 and I’ve maxed out every perk in the Agility line, guess I’ll start filling in another stat line.”

        The original Fallout games had the opposite approach, where skills were effectively uncapped. 100 Small Guns? You’re just getting started. 150? 200? Specialise as much as you want, but be warned, these points are finite. When did you stop? Not when the game literally stops you from putting more points in them, but when you felt you had enough to do what you wanted to do.

        So I wonder: would the newer games would benefit from lifting the cap on the individual abilities, and allow you to specialise indefinitely? Even with an infinite level cap, it means the player in turn would have the option to continue specialising in certain fields even, instead of everyone eventually turning into a generalist, thus preserving character identity regardless of level. Want to become a puglist so deadly, that you can knock out a Legendary Deathclaw with just one punch? Keep on investing in these open-ended Strength abilities and you’ll eventually be able to, and then some. Given infinite time, the character would might become a superpower who could literally shatter the planet by tapping his toes on the ground, but who still couldn’t do basic algebra or carry a tune.

        1. Sam says:

          Exactly this. Stats tell you what you can’t do well rather than what you just plain can’t do. If I want to roleplay a genius that can McGyver a laser rifle out of a broken window and some paper clips but can’t throw a punch to save his life, I shouldn’t max my unarmed, guns, heavy weapons, sneak, and explosives. When I play an RPG I want to be able to look at my character or someone else’s and be able to know their specialty.

          Your example of the Deathclaw punching pugilist reminds me of the FO3 Chinese Stealth Armor glitch that allowed you to stack stat bonuses infinitely such as the Hockey Mask +5 Unarmed bonus until you were dealing thousands of points of damage per punch.

        2. guy says:

          See, I find that systems like that don’t just let you make a character who can punch out the space-time continuum but not do basic math, they often make you do that. Spread out your points and you might find that you can’t do anything. And you have to assign your points on level up without knowing what challenges you face, so it feels like you have to do that even when you don’t.

          1. djw says:

            That is why level scaling enemies suck balls.

            1. guy says:

              They make it worse, but it can easily come up even without them. If you can’t get unlimited XP fighting lower-level enemies, you’re going to be pushed to specialize because you’re worried about running out of available XP.

              1. djw says:

                That’s why I like the Gothic and Risen series. You could beat any enemy in the game at level 1… if you have super-human reflexes and timing (which I do not). Skills and gear just make those superhuman feats reasonable for the rest of us.

                1. Couscous says:

                  Gothic II is interesting in that you have to specialize pretty early on through the faction choice. I forget how much Risen I was like that.

                  I was really disappointed with Risen II because it felt worse in nearly every way, including the combat.

                  1. djw says:

                    Lots of people hated risen 2. I actually really liked it, but I suppose that is a matter of taste.

                2. OMG it’s another Gothic player!

                  And, no, you couldn’t defeat any enemy in Gothic if you had superhuman skills–because the higher-level ones flat out had more defense than you could penetrate with your weapon. This was especially annoying with the stegosaurus lizard things because their attack was hilariously basic and any idiot (me) could easily time it and basically stun-lock them. But you did ZERO damage to them until you got a good enough weapon.

                  1. djw says:

                    I think that varied from game to game. In any case, my reflexes are not up to the task of testing that out. I always save up skill points and grab magery so that I can throw fireballs from a safe distance. Its surviving long enough to join the faction that is the tricky part.

                    For my money, Gothic is the only game that actually did level scaling correctly, by (1) not scaling anything at all, and (2) putting the difficult enemies in logical places and then giving you means to bypass them until you are ready.

                  2. Michael says:

                    As I remember it, defenses in Gothic were a flat subtraction from incoming damage… so, yeah, you could easily end up with situations where you couldn’t damage an enemy at all. And you couldn’t kill most human NPCs because there was no invulnerability to go along with that hideously long murder animation you had to play EVERY TIME.

                    That said, I kinda think there was a cheese strat which would let you finish the game without ever spending LP. I don’t remember how, though.

        3. Christopher says:

          Right, but this seems to be the complaint. We’re talking about “infinite” levels, therefore infinite perks. However, AFAIK the average player tends to get around 50-60 befoer stopping. That’s 49-59 perk points to spend, to specialize as you will.

          Skyrim is much the same way. You can ultimately end up being a master at everything, but I don’t recall ever legitimately playing the game and filling out more then two perk trees, dipping occasionally into others.

          To me the character buildings comes in what YOU choose to spend your perks on, not in arbitrary stat limits.

          To go to the RPG thing, let’s say you’re playing under the old 3.5 rules, and you want to play a fighter who was raised in a temple because he was abandoned as a child, so you want to take Knowledge (Religion). But oh wait, Fighters can’t do that. Arbitrary limitation say whaaat. Now, a reasonable DM would probably allow you to do that, but video games lack that leniency. They have hard and fast rules.

          I feel like the perks let me open up options for my head canon. I mean, obviously there’s failures in other way in Fallout 4, but I can be like “Well she got her Law Degree through the army but while in the army served time as a Power Armor technician, which is why she has these perks.”

          1. Gethsemani says:

            You are right on the money, good sir. Also, let us keep in mind that reaching level 50 in Fallout 4 is bound to take some 40+ hours, depending on how quickly you level up. For most of the early and mid-game the player will be making important gameplay decisions when leveling up, because you can’t get all the good perks and max out your SPECIAL since there’s a scarcity of points. You will have to choose between going melee or ranged, or do both but miss out on settlement building perks or crafting or lockpicking and hacking. You can make a really good sniper, but you won’t be able to use VATS to maximum effect etc..

            Most RPGs will eventually turn any player character into a Living God if enough time is poured into the character (Morrowind had this too, the hard cap was when your stats reached 100 which was anywhere between 50 and some odd 100 levels depending on your min-maxing). It is just noticeable in Bethesda games because they offer so much content and so little restrictions (no end state, open world) that you stick with your character far longer then in most other RPGs. Of course my character at level 70 will have a lot of maxed out perks, but for most of the 90+ hours I spent with the character she was not a sniping, sneaking Death Incarnate that could brawl with a Deathclaw and could unleash 3 critical hits in a row. For most of it I was constantly itching for one more point to increase damage or to plug some hole in my build.

            Bethesda games can be played as complete sandboxes without any player attempt at characterization beyond “Dude(tte) that goes around and does cool stuff”. They can also be played as RPGs where the player takes it on themselves to impose limits on their playstyle or make up in-character rationales for their actions. Neither way is wrong and that you can do both is a strength of the games.

            1. Couscous says:

              The level restrictions on perks mean that specializing much will be very difficult fairly early into the game.

              With Skyrim, players are going to be frequently generalizing from pretty early on without really thinking about it. The systems are there so they use them. Locks exist and the player has lock picks so they use them. They pick up a bunch of alchemy ingredients so might as well make something with them. Hey, might as well enchant some stuff because it is always useful. Same with smithing. You have magicka you aren’t using so might as well at least use restoration. Soul trap is a conjuration spell so there is that. Clairvoyance is an illusion spell so that gets thrown in. Candlelight and oakflesh are alteration so might as well use those even if you want a more fightery type. Some things are more binary so choose between one handed and two handed. OK, maxed out two handed in honestly not that many hours of actual combat. Welp, might as well switch to one handed to see bars increase. And so on.

              The same was pretty true with Fallout 3 for me except I didn’t even need to use the skills that I was putting points into, and it happened well before I had seen and done the stuff I wanted to do in that game.

              Skyrim is geared towards “due going around doing cool stuff.” Actually doing much beyond that requires me to come up with an amazing amount of rationalizations because the game simply doesn’t provide the tools for that. The player character has no real voice. The quests allow him pretty much no voice. Essential characters prevent the player character from even speak through violence in many cases. The games offer less ability to role play than Wizardry I. Saying you can roleplay by coming up with tons of rationalizations for everything the game has you do that likely makes no sense to the character is like saying that a game is really, really difficult and not insanely easy and tedious as long as you create a ton of arbitrary restrictions not in the game and restart whenever you fail to meet one of those arbitrary restrictions. Sure, but that is true of almost any game. I can role play in Euro Truck Simulator 2 just as much in Skyrim in that case.

          2. You could take Knowledge (Religion) on a Fighter in 3.5 rules. The problem was that the skill ranks cost you twice as many points, and since you got 2+int per level (for most fighters, 2 per level) who would do that?

            The skills system in 3.0 and 3.5 was bad because there were far too many skills that were far too specific and you’d need to make some insanely high roll to get any use out of them. So the entire system became nearly useless, because as a DM you pretty much could assume that if someone had a skill, they’d never fail a roll, and if they didn’t have it, they’d never MAKE one. Almost any time I ran a game, the entire party concentrated their points in 3 or 4 skills.

            Pathfinder is much better. All skills cost the same to raise. Anyone can put points in anything. If you put points in something that’s a class skill, you get +3 to rolls. And most of the rolls in their designed modules are such that if you have it as a class skill and put 1 point into it alongside a decent stat or skill item bonus, you’ll make the roll 80% of the time. So it actually encourages people to have some skill points in everything that’s oriented toward their class, while leaving them a few points here and there they can spend on flavor stuff that, hey, might be useful sometimes.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              While I’m a 3-3.5 kind of guy I will admit that is one thing that I missed from 2nd ed: the non-combat proficiencies. While there were still some that were visibly better than others (exactly which could depend on the context of the campaign) they helped flesh the character out without forcing the player to take points away from their combat abilities.

            2. Decius says:

              Pathfinder plug: PFRPG rules allow background traits, which have effects similar to “knowledge: religion is always a class skill for characters raised in a temple”

            3. djw says:

              Of course a rank or two in Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) might just come in handy, provided you have the intelligence stat to back it up.

          3. Ateius says:

            “Right, but this seems to be the complaint. We're talking about “infinite” levels, therefore infinite perks. However, AFAIK the average player tends to get around 50-60 befoer stopping. That's 49-59 perk points to spend, to specialize as you will.

            Skyrim is much the same way. You can ultimately end up being a master at everything, but I don't recall ever legitimately playing the game and filling out more then two perk trees, dipping occasionally into others.”

            This. Absolutely, 100% this. I’ve been hearing the “But you can become a master of everything and therefore it’s awful!” argument ever since Morrowind, and it has never, ever held water for me. Sure, if you really really want to you can play the same character for 400 hours and grind out every stat/skill/perk tree to maximum. And … maybe that’s fun for you? But you are going to run out of content long before you reach that point. You’re not stumbling over mastery of all things through normal play; you are deliberately striving for it. That the game allows you to achieve it if you are determined enough is not a slight against the game.

            I do miss racial/birthsign choices having lasting effects, though. Even gender differences back in Morrowind. It was fun to build someone who went against type and overcame their starting limitations.

            1. Decius says:

              My most recent Morrowind character maxed out all attributes (including luck) and ruled all the guilds and one great house before starting the main quest.

              Granted, that took specific planning and some stupid training decisions, but i didn’t run out of content, I just had to vary my technique once I maxed out certain skills.

        4. Abnaxis says:

          I can only speak for myself, but to me the caps aren’t what matters, what matters is how much the choices you make during character creation, or even during level-up, actually make a difference in how the game plays over the long run. How long does it take, before the concept you had in your head at chargen makes no mechanical difference?

          I’m fine if there’s no cap, as long as there’s at least some reason to consider playing a new character if I’m not interested in playing the way I’ve built my highest level character. Take Morrowind, for example: you can become an epic Redguard warrior, who decides after chopping up the latest necromancer that there might be something to this “magicka” stuff. You can do this, but you will have to work at that concept. Odds are, your redguard is a full 45 skill points and 50 attributes behind a starting altmer who plays a magic-centered build. By the time you overcome that handicap, it is clear to you, as a player, just how much a redguard mage is an exceptional case, defying the convention of what’s normal and what’s traditional by redguard standards.

          Compare this to Skyrim, where an orc is 25 skill points from an altmer in magic, at the lowest, easiest levels to train. If I get bored beating stuff with my maul as an orc berzerker, I’m maybe two minutes and a handful of gold away from being just as effective at magick-ing as any other character–it literally takes less time to train up the deficient skills, than it would take to finish customizing the appearance of a new character.

          In fact, I think that’s a good litmus test for my complaint–if it takes less time to bring a current running character up to speed than it does to roll up a fresh character, then the game is not adequately responding to the build choices you make. It’s what I like to call the “spending a few weeks at bard camp would be easier” problem–why invent an interesting backstory for my intrepid adventurer about how they became a wizard or a warrior or a rogue, when it’s trivial to bring anyone up to their level?

          I think Skyrim is the point in the Fallout Scrolls franchises, where they broadly decided to design the entire experience to be played once–if you get bored doing one thing, don’t bother restarting, just move on to the next thing and the game will happily let you. This is what makes me sad

      3. James says:

        While yes at the start there is some +5(i think) bonus’s to sneaking for some and whatever, by the time you hit level 3-4 that means nothing anymore really.

        There are some racial elements that come into effect sometimes like High Elves can infiltrate the embassy much easier, and Orc can go to orc camps without issues but it stops really meaning anything outside a few select times.

  4. I think you’re mistaking transition for stagnation. F4 at least seems to indicate a such. Awkward, stilted, poorly implemented transition to be sure, but transition nonetheless. The idea that they’re not going to try and replace those stats with more meaningful and less abstract mechanics doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  5. Grey Cap says:

    I think they made the right decision regarding the mechanics. I found the very straightforward system of Skyrim far more enjoyable than the mess that levelling was in Oblivion (where the strongest builds never level up, and you’re punished with lower attribute bonuses if you don’t make sure to level the right skills at the right time).

    And then they simplified it even more for Fallout 4 and lost me again. Man! Some people (me!) are never happy.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      Skyrim still has a problem with levelling though, I know I’ve gained far too many levels from smithing or alchemy and suffer when dealing with certain enemies because of that. Summed up rather well by this comic:

      1. guy says:

        Skyrim’s level scaling is different and you can work around that, though. It can give you trouble, but you can level your way out of it.

      2. Grey Cap says:

        It’s definitely far from perfect, but the system of levelling (as opposed to level scaled enemies) fit me very well. If they’d ditched the scaling they could very well have had the best of both worlds (and if Skywind ever gets released, we might).

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          I agree. Even if the implementation isn’t always great, I like a lot of the core ideas in Skyrim’s leveling system.

          1. Ranneko says:

            I agree, Skyrim took the parts of the use based levelling system that worked, and abandoned the messy attribute system that made it tedious and stupid.

      3. djw says:

        Smithing and alchemy can get you a completely broken armor set, if you cheese it out (in vanilla at least). Leveling with lockpicking really could screw you over I guess, but its so tedious I can’t see why you would bother…

    2. djw says:

      The level scheme in Oblivion and Morrowind activated my OCD approach to gaming in a big way.

      To maximize each level up you needed at least 10 points of skill for each attribute that you intended to raise. If you wanted to max each attribute you needed to be very careful not to level anything else per level so that you don’t waste a skill up that could contribute to that attribute later (so exactly 30 points per level).

      This created horrible incentives to grind skills. At one point I wedged my orc into a corner where the ceiling was low and spammed jump with auto-run on, just to train speed and agility at the same time.

      This is not fun.

      I have no sympathy for grognards who want stats back because that’s the way they played it way back when. Dropping them from Skyrim was absolutely the correct decision.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        This frustrated me immensely and so something that removes it is on my obligatory mod list whenever I launch either of these games.

      2. WJS says:

        Yes, because if a mechanic isn’t working right, you should just drop it rather than try to fix it. Never mind that modders fixed that particular problem back in bloody Morrowind

  6. Decius says:

    If you give up the design choice of telling players that their characters can’t do something, then you have to make everything possible for everyone.

    And you end up with mage’s guild grandmasters who don’t know a single spell.

    The alternative is to allow characters to fail, irrecoverably, at tasks. Morrowind even allowed that kind of failure on primary plot paths, but just put a few ways around the problem in.

    1. Humanoid says:

      It doesn’t feel good to be told you can’t do something. The clever writer tells you you can’t do something in this way, but you totally can do it this other way, because of the options you took. That feels good. New Vegas provides plenty of examples right to the end. Can’t speech check the legate? How about a barter check instead?

      Of course sometimes it’s more complicated than that. Maybe you won’t end up the grandmaster of the Mages’ Guild, but maybe we can do one better – the grandmaster, and by proxy the entire guild, is now your puppet because you’re so good at overcoming magic and murdering mages.

      1. Sam says:

        Ok… that’s actually a REALLY cool idea. I’d love to see more explorations of someone reaching the same endgoal through wildly divergent tactics and skills allowing them to tackle a problem designed for one build in clever ways ending in similar yet different endstates.

        Pipe dream admittedly but it sounds fascinating to me at least.

      2. Decius says:

        I like the idea of building a story where the PC tried and failed to accomplish an intermediate step, where a different PC could have tried and succeeded but either way the story continues.

    2. djw says:

      Part of the problem is the silly notion that faction quests need to end with you being the leader of the faction.

      Why not just have quest lines where you join up and gain status if you have the skills, or just get paid as a mercenary if you don’t. Either way, being supreme leader after a week in the gang seems really stupid.

      1. James says:

        Combined with the fact that in Elder Scrolls games you end up as the leader of ALL THE GUILDS, and the HERO OF TAMRIEL. A Master Thief, and Assassin, a Warrior, a Mage ect ect ect. Becoming the Daedric God of Madness made more sense.

      2. GloatingSwine says:

        Faction quests end with you being the leader of the faction and they still tell you to do all the pissant radiant quests you mean.

        Seriously, they need to sit down and put some effort into what it means to be the captain of the wizards or whatever next time and generate some gameplay from it.

      3. Michael says:

        Ironically, ESO doesn’t do this. Finishing the Mage and Fighters Guilds leave you as a respected member, but not the leader, and the titles you get reflect that.

        1. krellen says:

          That’s because no one is special in MMOs. It’s like the one rule (that SWTOR broke).

          1. Michael says:

            Hilariously? The ESO actually does do that, though. The player is expected to duck into a cave every five levels and go off on secret adventures to save the world. Which sounds almost as goofy as it is in practice.

            All three factions have plot lines that paint the player as someone who is singularly important with direct access to heads of state in a way the normal Elder Scrolls games don’t allow.

            And then, in this one case, the developers showed some restraint. It’s kind of amusing actually.

            It even has the Skyrim thing, where random background characters will comment on things the player has done. This gets even more jarring in the Cadwell cycles (New game + and ++) where you’re getting thanked by people for things you haven’t happened yet.

  7. newdarkcloud says:

    I wrote an article about the way Bethesda has been transition from Oblivion. I largely agree that Bethesda is fundamentally looking at core ideas like stats and asking themselves “Do we really need these in an RPG?”

    I think it’s a good thing. (Honestly, I can’t tell what your stance is given what you wrote here.) Even if it doesn’t always pan out, asking these questions and experimenting to find the answers is fundamental in advancing the genre.

    There may be a time when it’s decided that we need to go back to having lots of stats and feats and things like that for some reason in the future, but that’s the nature of the beast. We’ll always want change, even if change means going back to what it used to be.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Another thing besides stats that got the same treatment is critical hits. I really like how finally a dev has stepped back and questioned the point of randomly occurring crits. Sure, award them for making sneak attacks, for performing headshots, or as a special perk or whatnot. But not randomly, that’s a relic of systems where the abstraction was necessary.

      In a PnP game, maybe random criticals reflected the fact you sometimes happened to hit the head or a critical organ, but in a game where you can accurately simulate those events occurring, there’s no reason to abstract it. In the vast majority of modern games, the only reason random crits have to exist is because that’s how it’s always been done, and that’s no reason to keep them.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Edit: Nevermind, didn’t get that you were talking about FO4.

      2. Darren says:

        I still prefer the random crits, because I think it generally was a bigger boost to damage output. In FO4 with a Luck of 10 at level 1 I get a minor increase to the number of crits I can get in a given fight (probably one, maybe two). In FO3/New Vegas with a Luck of 10 at level 1 I get a 10% chance per hit for a critical. I felt gimped as hell in FO4 for a long time, and then I still had to actually manage my crit meter rather than just enjoying the extra damage output.

        To me, the issue was less that they wanted to eliminate randomization and more that they wanted to make VATS more useful.

  8. Fists says:

    This is probably a good place for me to point out a feature that I think FO4 could really have ditched entirely and improved the game:


    At this point it’s so easy and arbitrary that I don’t even know why it’s there, then on top of that it pulls you out of any immersion because the ‘difficulty’ of the same dungeon changes somewhat unpredictably as you progress. The first time I encountered the Gunners in Quincy I was relatively under-leveled and it was a good challenge to take out the boss of the area, then I leveled up a few times and put points into DPS perks and weapons/armour upgrades, came back and floored the entire encampment no worries. That’s a fine progression but the main thing I did in between was filler quests so not like I trained up or anything, just ground some mooks and got xp, then the worst of it is after I hit level 48 the game seemed to flip a switch and all of a sudden these guys I’ve destroyed twice (or more) have all leveled up and are tough again. This happens at about the point you run out of new perks with big damage/armour increases so I guess they wanted to re-balance the enemies for an end-game state.

    I think it would be more fun and rewarding to have enemies either statically leveled or have their levels tied to quest progression where relevant. As for perks and skills acquiring them through training would make improvements seem more tangible than just ticking a box after killing thirty dudes and rescuing a damsel/recovering a macguffin. Use the trainers concept from TES but instead of training levels they teach you ‘techniques’ that are basically the same as perks, this would need a bunch of redundancy so that a ‘heavy’ build doesn’t tie you to the brotherhood and ruin the illusion of choice.

    They’re already part way there with some of the companion and faction perks but they’re treated as bonuses more than core build mechanics.

    I look forward to overhauls akin to Oscuro’s and Mart’s but I think my ‘vision’ could be hard work to implement with mods.

    1. djw says:

      I like the idea of skills tied to trainers that you pay with money or favors. I actually think that locking some of them into faction progression is a good idea (possibly with a backdoor route for some of the skills that are faction locked, like paying a lapsed member of the brotherhood for power armor training).

      1. Da Mage says:

        I don’t get the obsession with ‘Power Armor Training’. That was a last minute fix added in Fallout 3 after a player at a press event grenaded a group of outcasts right out of the vault and was neigh invulnerable for the rest of the playthrough.

        It’s one of the aspect I am very glad they removed in Fallout 4, it was never in any of the original games.

        1. djw says:

          I shouldn’t have used power armor training as an example. I meant training for all skills and perks in general. I find it immersion breaking that the main character is an autodidact that can learn all skills untutored.

          1. GloatingSwine says:

            The downside to having to find someone to train you in skills is that unless improving skills is something that doesn’t happen very often, it adds a large amount of busywork to the player’s life and you have to relatively densely pack the trainer characters in accessable areas because otherwise well hope you didn’t want to use the skill that the trainer for is only in a super hard area you can’t get to for ages.

            Just letting the player spend skill points for themself is a helpful abstraction which lets the game flow.

            1. Decius says:

              Split the difference. Have perks/feats/things that require only a certain number of arbitrarily assigned points and finding a trainer that is willing to teach you. Might And Magic had something along those lines but they also limited training by class.

            2. djw says:

              I’m sure that not everybody agrees with me on this point (mostly for the reason that you point out), so I would be happy if Bethesda would put hooks into the software so that this feature could be modded in for those who think its interesting.

            3. Fists says:

              Definitely wouldn’t disagree that it adds busy work, I wouldn’t say that’s a valid reason to not put something in a Bethesda game though.

              I would expect the low levels for everything would be readily available, more than half the people in the commonwealth could teach you basic fire-arms handling but sighting in a scope and compensating for wind etc. (high level accuracy boost) or tuning your laser pistol to the best frequency would need to come from a more talented character. No need to add the mechanics just give the perk names/concepts more substance than “more deeps”. For locks rather than random difficulty names have special brands/models that only some people know how to pick.

              Maybe it wouldn’t really be more fun but I just feel like it’s getting pretty close to borderlands style gameplay, given my hours in borderlands easily eclipse the last three bethesda games maybe that’s a smart move, already played as much fo4 as skyrim because the combat is fun between story stuff.

            4. Tom H. says:

              Yep, I found my gameplay in Might and Magic revolving not around pursuing the plot but in finding and visiting the right trainers at the right time; that sapped all the fun out of the game for me. Part of that was managing a party, though: it might go better in a single-character game.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            This needs to be pricey DLC.

  9. Darren says:

    Whenever we discuss RPGs, I think there’s often a focus on the character-building side at the expense of the how-you-actually-play side. I’ve invested a lot of time in Skyrim with a lot of characters, and I can safely say that different builds play very differently. A pure mage (no perk points in anything but magic skills) is very different from a crafting-focused barbarian (two-handed, smithing, light armor) is very different from a wandering cleric (restoration, one-handed, block, mercantile) is very different from an assassin (sneak, archery, alchemy).

    The choices you make in Skyrim change how you play. How does that not qualify the game, to some degree, as an RPG?

    1. Tom H. says:

      In the past, I’d always ended up perking as a generalist – yeah, I want a fighter, but it’s so nice to put a perk in novice destruction & restoration when you’re starting out, and who can resist earning some easy cash through alchemy, and it’s so much easier to do so if you drop a perk point or two there, and … I’ve just recently discovered the idea of specialist builds and it’s making the game a lot more interesting: e.g. I have a level 25 character all of whose perks are in 3 trees.

      I wonder if people who complain about all races feeling the same are falling into generalist perking, which makes all characters feel a bit samey anyhow. If you’re being focused in your perking, the difference between a 15 and 25 skill is large, and it takes many levels before that difference is erased (for one really degenerate case, if we grind only illusion, by the time your character who was at 15 is at 25, mine who was at 25 is at 33; I’m getting access to the next tier of spells several levels earlier than you, and having less trouble with content of the same tier).

  10. Xaos says:

    About the race determining stats determing what your character can do, they COULD have gone with a class-as-race system like so-

    Magic: Sadly, to do a race-as-class sort of thing, magic has to be broken up. Every race can learn how to Enchant items, as well as the school of Mysticism. Mysticism follows abstract rules surrounding magic and through ritual, Not everyone is a good mage, however.

    Bretons: Naturally high Magic Resistance as usual. Unambigious mages, through and through. Mixes the arts of Aedric and Daedric magic, like their Aeyleid elf ancestors (, and therefore is the only character type that uses Conjuration and Restoration, and indeed, all magic schools.

    Khajit: Night vision and 1/day Eye of Fear. Mechanics based around acrobatics and feline agility. Fastest moving of all classes and capable of scaling buildings in no time at all. They don’t HAVE to be thief-acrobats, but, well…with natural talents like these, why wouldn’t they be?

    Dunmer: Fire resistance as usual. Combines stealth with Destruction, Conjuration, and Alteration magic. Undesputed master of Conjuration magic and gets bonuses when fighting with Bound Weapon spells, as well as from undead created with Necromancy.

    Altmer: Highest reserves of Magicka. Uses all magic schools except Conjuration and has deepest wells of Magicka. Elven and Glass equipment increases magic somewhat, and enchanted versions of such items can feed off the elf’s magicka in place of a soul gem to regain their charge. Does this make them good warriors? …Not really.

    Bosmer: Master of archery and stealth. Can shoot on the run. Has animal-based powers and Alteration magic, hinting at some of their darker magical potential (Wild Hunt). Also uses Restoration magic. Can craft normally plant-based items from animal parts. Can feast upon any humanoid or animal corpse to regain health even without Namira’s ring. Its a Wood Elf thing.

    Argonian: Constant water breathing and spouts of regeneration with Histskin. Can use Illusion magic and (exclusively) Poisonous Destruction magic, good stealth and health. Vaguely jack-of-all-tradesy. Can be surprisingly capable in niche situations.

    Orsimer: Orcish Strength grows in tempo with a rage resource, climaxes in episodes of great power in the deepest bloodthirst. Health and Strength are high and defense increases when rage reaches its peak. Thrives in long, drawn out battles.

    Redguard: Resists Poison. Can shoot on the run. Can use Destruction magic, combines with a stamina-efficent, “adrenaline”-fuelled fighting style and some potential for stealth and agility.

    Imperial: Uses Destruction, Illusion, and Restoration magic, but is more of a straight-up warrior instead of a caster in spite of having slight better spell selection than most non-elf races (yes, Bretons count). Outclassed by Nords, Orcs, and Redguards in the warrior department, too. Has the greatest skill at haggling and persuasion.

    Nord: Resists Cold. Power attacks deal more damage, which two-handed weapons getting slightly better value in damage for the deal, but stamina is not as fast to regenerate as a Redguard. Better archers than Imperials but not great. Best baseline combat stats, not prone to the highs and lows of an orc.

  11. Catalysten says:

    This series has turned the way I see the Elder Scrolls series upside-down. I started on your website reading your hilarious, light humor on the Battlespire game. What I didn’t even think to suspect is that, deep within the satire of infinitely nested sack-baskets, you knew in a deep and meaningful way what makes a video game what it is. The Altered Scrolls is amazing!

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You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
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