It's the 24th of Evening Star, Skyrim's version of December. As I stand at the North Pole (Septimus Signus's Outpost, the north-iest point I could find), 7:59 clicks over to 8:00 p.m. It's time to deliver a present to every NPC household in Skyrim. (Confused? See Part 1.)
Coming to Town
I hop on Rudolph's back, then hop back off. I know I decided not to deliver to caves, but Septimus Signus is, like, right here. I run into his ice cave where he's pacing around. He looks cold. He doesn't even have a bed. I drop him a bear pelt.
Then I'm off for real! I hop onto Rudolph and fly my way to my first real stop: Solitude Lighthouse, home of an NPC called Ma'zaka. Ma'zaka's door is locked, but my new Knock spell works perfectly, and at 8:03 p.m., I break in. He's standing right inside the door and immediately warns me: "You're not supposed to be here." After stumbling around for a moment, I find his bedroom in the back, and drop a Amulet of Dibella on the floor next to his bed.
"Last warning," he says. "Leave. Now." Well, merry Christmas to you too, jerk.
I head to the Thalmor Embassy. Along the way, I begin to discover a few of Rudolph's flaws, namely, that when he collides with something, like a mountain or an invisible wall at the edge of the map, he plummets to the ground. Also, when I climb off his back, I sometimes continue to fly on my own. Trying to open doors when you're hovering eight feet above them is tricky.
Another problem: the Thalmor Embassy is locked, and needs its own key. My Knock spell can't open locks that can't normally be picked. Oh well. I drop an Amulet of Kynareth at the feet of the Thalmor Wizard guarding the entrance. "Just leave your refuse wherever you see fit!" she spits sarcastically at me. Ho-kay. I'm not really feeling the Christmas spirit so far. I'm off to Solitude.
I deliver gifts to the residents of The Winking Skeever, the city's inn, and magically pick the lock of Radiant Raiment. I crash around looking for the owner's bedroom while she issues warnings to me to leave. Before I can navigate my way out of her home, she starts yelling. "Guards! Help! Tresspasser!" That's when Christmas officially gets messy.
Outside, the guards try to arrest me, and I flee into Angeline's Aromatics. They follow as I run upstairs and drop some trinkets near the bed, then they block the stairs as I try to leave, while Angeline chants "You need to leave. You need to leave." I finally manage to maneuver past the guards and back onto the street. I make it into Bits and Pieces, leave an enchanted axe on the bed, and run into a massive crowd of guards by the door. There are so many soldiers I can't force my way past them. As Santa, I've only played the main quest as far as Dragonsreach, so I don't have a Fus Roh Ho Ho Ho Dah shout to blast them out of my way. I'm stuck! Desperate, I summon Rudolph, whose giant fat butt creates enough of a gap in the guards for me to squeeze through to the door.
There are now a dozen guards after me. After a few more quick deliveries to the remaining stores, my Santa speed takes me to the other end of the city quickly enough for the guards to lose sight of me, and I get to make a few deliveries in relative peace. I hit a few homes, drop a ton of loot in the extensive Bard's College, and visit Styrr in the Hall of the Dead, all without incident.
And I In My Cap
Then I head to the Blue Palace, where the guards immediately attempt an arrest again. Unfortunately, this time I accidentally pick the "Pay my bounty" option. This means they confiscate any stolen goods I've got. I've bought all my gifts legitimately, but I do have one stolen item: my Santa hat, since I "stole" it from the barrel in Dragonsreach. They unceremoniously strip it from me. My Santa hat! My festive lid! Gone! I'm deeply upset.
My giving mood has been spiked, and I start leaving charcoal for everyone else in Solitude. I'm pleased to see that charcoal comes in sticks, and those sticks look like poo, which feels fitting for these ungrateful citizens. Outside the city, even Rudolph isn't feeling cooperative: when I summon him, he appears on a ledge out of reach. I leave him there and run to the stables and farms outside Solitude on foot.
I then fly off to Mor Khazgur, an orc stronghold. We arrive with Rudolph sporting an arrow in his face due to us passing too close to a few angry bandits with no Christmas cheer but plenty of good aim.
The orcs are not thrilled to see me bursting into their longhouse and crashing around, dropping loot by their beds, but despite several stern threats they never get violent. A half-hour into my trip, I visit Dragon Bridge, then arrive in Falkreath at 8:40. They welcome me with open arms. Open arms that shoot flames and ice bolts. Someone even summons a ghost dog to attack me. Does real Santa have to put up with this crap?
I've hated Falkreath even before tonight: it sports a confusing multi-level layout that makes it hard to find doors that you can see on the map. Now I've also come to hate its easily-angered residents. Still, by 8:52, we're out of there, having either visited everyone or perhaps gotten sick of trying to visit everyone while surrounded by angry guards and wizards. Rudolph is having major problems by this point, crashing to earth every few seconds while in flight, meaning we're constantly being attacked on the ground by Forsworn, bandits, wolves, and sabre cats. No one seems happy to see Santa tonight!
Well, the first leg of my trip didn't go well. But at least that means things can't go worse, right?
Things go worse. Next time, on Serial.
A Very Skyrim Christmas, Part 1
Let's skip the requisite preamble paragraph and get right to it. Here's the plan: in Skyrim, I'm going to use mods and console commands to transform my character into Santa Claus. Then I'm going to deliver gifts to every single NPC household in Skyrim. And I'm going to do it in a single night.
Making a List
As an aspiring Santa in Skyrim, I face a few challenges. First, a heavy workload. Even a quick glance at the Elder Scrolls wiki
shows 115 NPC homes, and I strongly suspect there are more. For instance, the owners of stores often live in rooms above their shops, not in separate homes, so those aren't listed on that page. Cities have castles and palaces stuffed with NPCs who actually live there. There are orc strongholds, two Dark Brotherhood sanctuaries, a few mills that aren't listed, a couple lighthouses, and so on.
For sanity's sake, I'm going to define NPCs as characters who have actual names. I don't plan to do forts or towers, for example: bandits, while naughty and deserving of coal, typically aren't named, and thus can't be on Santa's list. Same with guard barracks: guards are just guards, they have no outside lives that I'm aware of, other than gently mocking passing heroes. No caves, either: while there are some named NPCs living in caves, they're not getting presents because, look: don't live in a cave, okay? Shacks, typically, are inhabited by monsters, or dead bodies, or no one, so I'm skipping those as well. Following those guidelines, I've come up with my general route.
Now, to look a bit closer at the details. Just by examining the city of Solitude and making notes, I've counted up 76 NPCs who need presents. Granted, many of them share lodgings, so I should be able to dump presents for entire families in a matter of moments, but that's still a lot of individual stops. More than I had really thought there would be.
Which means I really need to do something about the duration of Christmas Eve. First of all, vanilla night is not nearly long enough: the day/night cycle in Skyrim is set at 20:1, where every minute of real-time equals 20 minutes of in-game time. Using the console command 'set timescale to 1' makes the passage of time in Skyrim identical to real-time. Provided I start at 8:00 p.m., and plan to be done by 8:00 a.m., that should give me enough time for the trip.
The Santa Skyrim Deserves
Quick! Before I decide this is a terrible idea, let's turn me into Santa. Using a new character, I begin by getting in the mood with a little santa cosplay. I found this
Santa hat mod, which places a Santa hat (actually, 1000 of them) in a barrel inside Dragonsreach. That's a good start. I also avail myself of a bright red Santa coat with another mod.
As magical as Santa is, I'm still going to refrain from using fast-travel, but I'll make up for it by traveling fast. I use the console code 'player.forceav speedmult' and set it to 800 (the normal movement speed is 100). That makes me fast. Real fast. A test run, however, gives me a new problem.
As you can see, whooshing around Skyrim like Quicksilver means I can very easily fling myself off a cliff and die from the impact. I'm tempted to just use God mode —Santa is of course immortal—but being immortal, in my mind, doesn't mean you can't be killed, just that you won't die naturally from aging. So, I just boost my health to 10,000 using another console code. I also lower my speed back down to 200: that will keep me fleet but I'll still be able to stop easily enough to open doors.
Speaking of doors: how will I get into all of those homes? It's not like I'm going to skulk through the world pick-pocketing the house keys off every single NPC in advance (though, note to self, I should do that sometime). I sure as hell don't want to play the lock-picking mini-game all night. So, I'll do it the same way a morbidly obese elf traditionally fits down a chimney: with magic. I find it a little lame that Skyrim doesn't have a simple Knock spell, which should reside in every magician's bag of tricks, but as with everything,
there's a mod for that. This mod lets me cast an Open Lock spell and then crack open a door in short order.
Now that I dash from door to door, and open those doors without lockpicks or keys, there's the question of quickly getting between towns and cities. That's where Rudolph comes in,
via another mod. I can summon him with a spell, hop on his back, and fly through the air. Perfect! I also increase his movement speed with another console cheat.
Another issue pops up. If I'm doing this at nighttime, when everyone is at home all snug in their beds in their kerchiefs, caps, and full plate armor, it's going to be dark, possibly very dark. Not only will this make it tough for me to find my way around, but it's going to make for some terrible screenshots. Thankfully,
yet another mod gives me a spell to control the weather, including changing it to Sovngarde conditions, which are bright and magical and even shower down little sparkles that look like snow. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! I also install a lovely UI mod to help me keep track of the time on-screen. It adds a widget that displays the current time, including a little graphic showing the moon in the sky. Perfect.
Next, I mull over my gift options. It would be in keeping with tradition to actually craft the presents, but I don't want to spend hours standing at a forge, and I don't have an army of unpaid elves to do it for me. So, I rush around to every store in Skyrim, buying the best in armor, weapons, clothing, potions, ingots, and jewelry. I also acquire some charcoal in case I come across anyone naughty. Naturally, to carry all this loot I need to increase my carryweight ('player.setav carryweight 10000' oughta do it).
Okay! I'm ready to spend the night breaking into people's homes all over Skyrim. What could go wrong?
Next time: a bunch of things go wrong.
Skyrim mod Enderal teased in impressive trailer
Enderal is the Skyrim-based sequel to top Oblivion mod Nehrim: At Fate's Edge. It occupies a similar space of disbelief in my mind, too. Normally, I would never assume a total conversion of this size and scope could ever make it to release. But then, I thought the same about Nehrim and that did come out—despite what years of watching big mods get dragged down by drama has taught me.
Can Enderal be similarly real? The mod's makers not only think so, but think it'll happen next year. As proof of their intentions, they've released a trailer filled with scenes and environments from the game. It certainly looks like it exists.
For more on Enderal, head over to its ModDB page.
Skyrim Mod Enderal s Trailer Explores The Undercity
The developers of upcoming Skyrim total conversion Enderal: The Shards of Order have released a new trailer, showing off a location dubbed the Undercity.
I’m curious: just how does one acquire a Shard of Order? First you’d need to shatter an intangible concept, which seems like a lot of hard work, even for a fantasy big boss. Ordering a Shard seems a lot easier: you can just have one custom-made by any number of Skyrim merchants. Enderal, whoever you are – you have my number. Call me.
… [visit site to read more]
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Skyrim mod Enderal gets atmospheric Undercity trailer
It's been a while since we last checked in on Enderal—the Skyrim total conversion from the makers of Nehrim: At Fate's Edge. Now that ModDB's annual award season has started, though, in-progress mods are rumbling to life in order to maybe tempt you into giving them a vote. Hence this trailer: a look at the game's Undercity. It's an atmospheric place, even if it doesn't show much beyond the environment and its inhabitants.
Enderal is a sequel to Nehrim, and as such aims to create a world unrelated to TES's Tamriel with a "complex, dark storyline and thousands of secrets to discover". There's still no end to development in sight, but the mod's makers promise more video updates in the new year.
The Steam Exploration Sale Day 6!
For the next six days, take advantage of huge savings throughout the Steam store on thousands of titles. Plus, discover new and recommended games on your personalized Exploration Sale page here. Check back each day for new Daily Deals.
Todays Featured Deals Include:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 75% off
Crusader Kings II - 75% off
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - 75% off
Tomb Raider - 80% off
The Forest - 33% off
Wasteland 2 - 33% off
Child of Light - 60% off
Ryse: Son of Rome - 35% off
Alien: Isolation - 50% off
The Steam Exploration Sale runs from now until 10AM Pacific Time, December 2nd. Complete information on Daily Deals and other special offers can be found on Steam.
The funniest patch notes in PC gaming
How Green Is My Uncanny Valley
I have The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter installed on my PC and ready to go. But there’s something that’s been playing on my mind regarding that game before I’ve even booted it up. It’s been nagging at me ever since I watched a video from Andy Kelly’s Other Places series the one which focuses on Ethan Carter’s Red Creek Valley and it finally crystallised a problem I’ve been experiencing for years without being able to put it into words.
Just after a shot of a dam there’s a lingering shot of a churchyard. In the foreground a handless statue of Jesus marks the grave of a woman named Thusnelda. In the background the autumn trees sway in the breeze and the weed-infested grass well, I want to say that it sways but it’s a sway which comes via a clump-by-clump waggle. That grass is why I’m proposing there exists a foliage version of the uncanny valley.
… [visit site to read more]
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Skyrim Survival Diary: Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which >could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i)write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.>
I found Meeko sitting by the side of the road. He is one of Skyrim s shaggy, grey wolfhounds that look as old as they do stupid. He saw me, turned around and ran into the thicket. I followed him through the trees, where he led me to a run-down shack. I looked inside and there, lying still and grey on the shed s single rickety bed, was Meeko s owner. He was dead. The mongrel looked to me, blinked in the cold and seemed to whine. All right then, I thought, you can follow me. It was a decision I never came to regret. Later on, Meeko killed a lot of people for me.
But more importantly, Meeko kept me warm in Skyrim s deadly mountain passes. One of the mods I have installed is Frostfall, which gives the player a few extra things to worry about. Exposure can leave you freezing to death, while being wet means you succumb to the cold even faster. You have to keep yourself warm at fires and fill up on hot soups to keep your exposure meter from dropping too low. Once, I tried to swim across a small, icy river and before I could get a fire going on the opposite shore I passed out from hypothermia. I woke up in a familiar inn, penniless, frostbitten and with this note in my pocket.
… [visit site to read more]
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
How To Make Skyrim A Survival Game
There are lots of survival games, but there are also lots of games which >could be survival games with the right mods installed. Over the course of Survival Week we’ll highlight a few of those games and i) write a diary of our experience playing with it ii) explain how to do it yourself.>
You may have already read my Skyrim survival diary and if not, why not? It sees me struggling to ward off frostbite with wine and adopting the game s most lovable dog just to keep my feet warm. If you want to plod through the winter wastelands of Tamriel with the same survival mode in mind yourself, these are the mods you ll want to add. Most of them come from a single source, the Nexus modding community. Before you grab them, it is best to have their Nexus Mod Manager installed, as well as something called SKSE. (You will also have to register to join the Nexus community to download these files). Getting all this architecture in place is a minor frustration compared to the improvements you ll see in the end. It will be worth it when you find yourself freezing to death under a rocky outcrop with no wood to start a fire.