Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 8: Balmora mage quests, mods

I feel like I've joined the Mage Mafia. The first few guild quests in Balmora were pretty neutral, even if they didn't really have anything to do with magic (buy a bowl, help an incompetent guildmate cheat on her homework, and aid in some petty rivalries between guild members), but once I started getting my duties from Ranis "Mob Boss" Athrys, the quests suddenly took a turn toward mafia enforcer. Firstly, she gives me two concurrent quests. In one, I'm supposed to go to the home of an ex-Telvanni sorcerer, and convince him to join the guild, or kill him. In the other, she wants me to go to a cave where a guild member is conducting research, and collect her overdue guild dues...or kill her. What the hell have I gotten myself into? Killing a non-guildie because he won't join? And what if I fall behind in my dues? (I'll refrain from spoilers about this quest, except for a brief mention of what I did at the end of this post. Spoilers will be marked by a header!)

It was a long, adventurous road in searching for these two. I'm glad I'd just made a new fireball spell. It kills cliffracers in 5 seconds, though I can only cast it 2 or 3 times before resting to refresh my mana.

Here I came across one of the things that I wish were in this game. In WoW, you can tell at a distance which people or creatures are hostile, because their names appear in red. Here, there is no such indicator, so you get situations such as when I started across the dwemer bridge past Fort Moonmoth, and saw a man standing at the far end of it, near a large creature I'd never seen before. (I learned later it was a netch.) So I thought maybe this was something similar to the silt striders, and this man was the travel guide. Instead, as I approached curiously, he spotted me and charged into attack. Adding to my confusion, he had a name, Snowy Granius, so after killing him, I had to look up his name to see if I'd done something wrong. Apparently not, he's just a named hostile who has no purpose other than to attack you. Very strange to me.

I got lost a lot during this trip. Was much more challenging than Oblivion, which had the quest compass marker always showing you where to go. I passed my destination many times, but in the process I discovered a second large dwemer ruin (steampunk-looking places which I'm going to enjoy exploring in more detail later!) and several caves, which I took the time to clean out, returning to Balmora to unload my loot before continuing on.

Notable mods during this session

However, before I re-embarked, this back-and-forth loot trek convinced me to take advantage of something that was added by Balmora Expansion: namely, pack guars! I bought a tamed guar as a beast of burden, which was very handy in my later travels. The only trouble with this mod is that the guar has a tendency to stand directly in the way of the dead creatures I'm trying to loot. It also always runs to attack whatever I attack, which I don't want it to do! It can easily get in the way, and unlike a summoned creature, it doesn't give you several hits' grace before turning on you. It seems that telling it to "stay" will prevent it from entering combat, but you can't give it commands while it's attacking, and while it may be tough, it's not immortal. I just noticed this expansion also adds backpacks to the game, which allow you to carry more items. I'll have to try those out next time I play.

On this road, there's a small lake, which occupied me for a while thanks to Abot's Water Life. I spent some time there fishing and watching the ducks! To fish, you need some bait, and one of the possible baits you can use is crab meat. This is good, because this mod often spawns hermit crabs along with the ducks, fish, seashells, etc.

I also found some volcanic steam vents which have names as if they're activators, but they didn't do anything when I clicked on them. didn't have any entry for "vents", so I'm guessing these were added by one of my mods, and I don't know which one.

Balmora Expansion also apparently adds some crafting into the game, as it's a compilation of a bunch of other mods. Judging from the bundled readmes, it looks like it's from Quivers and Fletching Kit V2.5. This adds several new items to the game which can be used to assemble arrows, and poisons for dipping them in. But another crafting mod that I've installed separately is Complete Morrowind, which adds cooking, sewing, brewing, pottery, carpentry, mining, smithing, and more! Today I chose a table in a corner of the Magus Realm tower that will be my new workshop for most of these things, and I've also started using the kitchen to make use of the cooking features.

Here there be minor spoilers for Balmora guild of mages quests

First I need to say, at my current level, flame atronachs can kill me in one hit. They have some kind of fireball that's very similar to the one I made, which drains about 1.5x my hit points, so if I don't immediately cast my self-heal, it'll kill me. I tried many times to kill this one, but I just wasn't powerful enough, and it killed me over and over, so I gave up. Additionally, I still run into the running out of mana problem. I'm going to try to find a spell vendor who has the "drain intellect" spell, so I can try out its mana-refreshing properties. I badly need some enchanted clothes with constant-effect mana fortification on them. I'm picking intellect as my main attribute to boost on every level up, but it's still not enough.

Anyway, I found the two people targeted by Ranis. First the Telvanni sorcerer. I went in his house, expecting a fight, so I left the pack guar by the entrance. But when a woman showed up in the hall, she wasn't hostile (though with a rather low disposition), so I left her alone. Same with the others I met along the way, until I found Llarar Bereloth, who seemed very reasonably insulted by Ranis' ultimatum, stating that he just wanted to conduct his research and studies in peace, and Ranis' guild could go take a hike. Well, I wasn't going to attack this guy, as I was starting to feel the same way about the guild, but I ended up bribing him, and he eventually agreed to join up next time he headed into town. Fair enough.

Next, I found Manwe in a cave called Punabi, who said she wasn't even a guild member anymore, having quit to do research on her own. Apparently either she never informed Ranis about this, or Ranis' policy is that once you join, you're in the guild for life, and woe to anyone who can't pay their dues! Well, though I wasn't happy about it, I convinced Manwe to pay the 2000 drakes anyway, which she agreed to do if I'd leave her alone. I was almost tempted to pay her dues myself, since I think Manwe's scholarly ways are more honourable than the ruthless and strongarmed Ranis.

Ranis was pleased at my success, and had the audacity to split the gold from Manwe's dues with me. This is looking like plain extortion to me now.

Next up was more of the same. Oh no, there's a freelancer in town who's offering training in sorcery and selling spells. Can't have someone infringing on the monopoly of the almighty Mages' Guild! Ranis tells me, not surprisingly, to convince him to stop, or kill him. At this point, I'm starting to seriously wonder if Ranis even has the authority to be issuing people the license to kill. Well, this argonian is savvy. He makes me a deal that he'll offer me training if I just lie for him, telling Ranis he stopped his activities. Sounds good to me. Might be playing with fire, knowing how little it takes for Ranis to issue a death warrant, but after my previous two successes, I don't think she'll suspect me. And if she does eventually, I think I might be able to deal with her by then.

Next time, I think I'll work on my spells, maybe practise a little alchemy with all those ingredients I picked up on the road (the alchemy lab works very nicely, by the way), and maybe explore one of those dwemer ruins with the new enchanted gear I picked up in Caldera.


  1. Cute ducks!
    I will try to install that mod for the pack guars, it is something I really enjoyed on Dungeon Siege, to have a pack mule! Can you just ask it to stay, let's say, in the entrance of a cave, and then explore it having the guar safelly waiting for you outside to deposit your stuff on it?

    I get a little affraid to install these big mods, I don't want things to change much before I even really tried the game the way it is. Did you feel too much difference? Or is it just a few twinks?

  2. Yes, in the times I used the pack guar, once I left it at the entrance inside a cave, and another time I left it outside the entrance to the cave, and it was safe both times. If you tell it to stay, it crouches down and goes to sleep, and it doesn't seem like anything else will attack it unless it's actively following you. Also, I found that if it does die if it gets caught in the middle of a fight with you, you can loot it and get all your stuff back (if it comes to that).

    I played Balmora a bit before installing Balmora Expansion, and after I installed it I didn't really notice anything different at first, except that the city was bigger. There were more shops, as well as a new entertainment district with a museum, petting zoo, street minstrels, bath house, furniture store and more. I haven't actually gotten around to exploring it all yet, but I think it's worth installing, because it really adds a lot of flavour to the game (Balmora really looks rather empty without it). Supposedly there's also a large sewer system that's been turned into an Undercity as well, but I haven't found the entrance to that yet.

    So far from avoiding installing city-expanding mods, this mod left such a positive impression on me that I want to install some of the other settlement-expanding mods! There's a whole great list of them here.

  3. I installed it and got the pack guar! I had only one problem, it was that it would get in the way while trying to open a door, not the graphic, but his name would appear instead of the door name. The fact that it wait for you outside a dungeon is great, I shall keep the mod, thank you!

    That list you posted makes me impressed of how many dedicated mod makers this game still has. Also, makes my heard hurt, it's waaaay too many things. I will just keep reading here and see what is worth getting, sorry for the lazyness!

    And, if you so very please could recommend me a good clothing addon? I just find things I don't like, such as plate mail that look like bikinis. I just want some pretty robes so that I can hide my ugly armor.

    Thank you for all the tips so far! And for putting the spoiler warning!

  4. Heh, that makes me feel like this blog is useful. :) I agree about the guar getting in the way. I only mentioned him standing in the way of the fallen creatures I was trying to loot, but he gets in the way of doors, too. His activation area is much too large for how closely he follows you. I'll have to see if I can edit the "follow" script so he stays at a certain distance.

    As for clothes, the only clothing mod I've installed so far is this robe replacer. There are two sets to choose from, but it's a hard choice because I have favourites on both sides. I'll have to try mixing and matching later. Is that what you were looking for? I plan to look into more custom clothes later.

  5. Thank you for the robes link! That's what I was looking for! So, installing that, the normal game robes will be replaced, and if I don't want that to happen anymore, I just disable the mod and the old ones will be back?

    I tried Abigail's Petshop (I got it on Planet Elder Scrolls, sorry I don't know how to make fancy links)for companion pets too. It has some extra abilities, like healing the pet, and it can gain lvls. You also learn a spell that teleports the pet to you. I found it too much and left it quiet for now, but maybe you could check.

    Yeah, your blog is helping me, glad I found someone that is also starting to play the game but understand more about mods then me! It's complicated to join communities, because their discussions are generally very far ahead, so if you don't mind I'll keep exchanging some ideas here.

  6. I certainly don't mind! That's one of the main reasons I started writing in this blog -- to have conversations about these things. :)

    They don't make it easy to put links in these comments like they do in the blog posts themselves. I actually have to type the HTML code to make text into a link here. I found Abigail's Petshop on ElricM's site.

    So yes, installing either of those robe replacers will turn all the normal robes in the game into these robes. I think you need to actually uninstall all the files to eliminate the change entirely, not just disable the mod, because the ESP part is just to assign the female robes to the female characters or something like that, I believe. I use Morrowind Plugin Manager to deal with installing/uninstalling all the various files. It only works on .zip and .rar files, though, no .7z files.

  7. Ranis doesn't really have the authority to order you into killig people. Murder is against the law and the Mages Guild does care about laws (unlike the Telvanni).

    And here is what Ajira says about Ranis after you complete her quests:

    "Ajira knows many secrets, but they are not yet for friend %PCName. Speak with Ajira again when you are a Warlock. Ranis Athrys here may have duties for you, but Ajira does not like Ranis much. Maybe you should speak with Ajira's good friend Edwinna Elbert at the Guild of Mages in Ald'ruhn?"

    Morrowind is full of tips and warnings, but you can easily miss them if you don't carefully read everything people tell you.