Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day 17+: Progression, Faction quests, enchanting

Over the past few days I've gained quite a few levels (I'm level 30 now) and advanced though a bit of the main quest, and a lot of faction quests and side quests. I'm going to complain about the main quest for a few paragraphs, so please skip to the next header if you want to avoid any ill feelings. :)

I think just about anything's more interesting than the main quest. Perhaps even the Temple quests, once I got past the annoying pilgrimage part. So far, the main quest is a lot of drudgery and grudgingly working for this agent of the emperor who imprisoned me for unexplained reasons and shipped me to Vvardenfell, all so I can fulfill...ugh, I can't say it. Blah blah prophecy, blah blah chosen one...hasn't that tiresome "prophesied chosen one" theme been beaten into the ground enough by pop fiction? Can we chop off its head, stuff its mouth with garlic, and cremate it, please? Bethesda seems to love this "destiny" business, with this, then the emperor in Oblivion's "You are the one from my dream!", and then Fawkes in Fallout 3's "We all have our own destinies, and yours culminates here."

I'm still pretty early in the main quest, due to its sheer tedium. I've just finished the part where Caius sent me to talk to some people in an Ashlander camp. I had learned all about "Ashlander courtesy" (read: hostility and snobbishness to outsiders) from Hassour Zainsubani in the previous leg of the main quest, so I was prepared for some rudeness and racism, which I was given in spades. They all need to be bribed to give you the time of day, and they tell you as much. Still, I was determined to plow through this irritating grunt work to get on to more interesting parts of the plot (or, failing that, at least get through it so I can focus on the more interesting side quests and faction quests), so I jumped through their hoops until I got to the "Ash Khan" -- quite a fancy name for some jerk living in a tent -- who says there's no way in hell he'll let me talk to the bloody "wise woman", and how dare I even imply that I might be this "destined one" they've been expecting, considering I'm one of those hated outlanders? Hey, friend, I'm just the messenger, okay?

So he says that if I want to meet the wise woman, I'll have to go through a harrowing to prove myself worthy of the title "Clan friend", because only clan members and friends can talk to her. I'm thinking, "A harrowing? Are you serious? I don't want to join your stupid nomad fraternity, I just came here to ask some simple questions to keep this government agent happy." All the civilised factions I joined just had to take a look at my skills to determine my eligibility for membership, but if I want to progress the main quest I have to submit to this barbarian's initiation. So what does this khan tell me to do, to prove my respect for their customs and worthiness? That's right, he wants me to raid his tribe's ancestral tomb, and kill the ghost of his own father to get his father's longbow to show him. And after I'm done desecrating all his ancestor's mummies, taking the weapons from their mummified hands and the offerings laid around them, and tearing them open for bone dust, not to mention trapping all the souls of the walking skeletons and his father's own ghost to recharge my gear and level up my enchanting skill, I got back to camp and he tells me "Oh, I don't actually want the bow, I just wanted to see if you could get it." Fortunately, he declares me "Clan friend" before I end up shooting him with it (just kidding), though there's no one else in his tent to hear him, and he never leaves it to tell anyone, so I guess they all just take my word for it.

So I talk to the "wise woman", who tells me that due to the wisdom of their illiterate ways, a number of the necessary prophecies have been lost because no one could write them down. She hopes that some "dissident priests" preserved them at some point, though of course how would any of them know if these priests didn't go ahead and make some changes to the text to suit themselves, or just make them up entirely? Then she starts telling me a litany of "trials" that I'll have to start going through after I report to Caius, and I'm not happy. ("I'll be judge, I'll be jury," said cunning old Fury. "I'll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.") So now's my cue to leave off the main quest again for a while, and get on to more interesting and enjoyable things.

Ring of Golden Saint and other enchantments

My original plan was to level up my enchanting to avoid the extremely high prices the professional enchanters charge by enchanting items myself. But it's not as simple as it was in Oblivion, where you could just activate an altar, pay some gold, and enchant any quality item with any level of spell that your soul gem could support, and it always worked. In Morrowind, it takes a lot more finesse, and I like that. Enchantments should be expensive if they're this prone to failure. It also makes sense that it takes higher quality gear to support more complicated enchantments, though it does require consulting lists of enchantment capacities of clothes and weapons. Strangely enough, as far as weapons go, the heaviest, rarest weapons are not the ones that hold the most powerful enchantments. The ebony staff is the best, holding 90 enchant points and weighing 16 pounds, with the second-best being the bonemold long bow, at 40 points with a light weight of 7 pounds. So I guess I won't be carrying around that 42-pound daedric spear with its paltry 15 points of enchantment capacity.

Nothing's better than rings and amulets, though, the most expensive of which hold 120 points each, and are extremely lightweight. And there are plenty of articles of clothing that can be enchanted and worn simultaneously with armour, which can also be enchanted, though not as much. The annoying thing is that there's only one type of exquisite clothing in the game (the highest enchant level). You've probably seen it in a lot of screenshots, and wondered at the taste of the characters sporting this pink-and-yellow affair. Well, it's the only colour available, that's why. It's not like it's a unique set -- you can get the pieces in quality clothing shops all over the place. It's just that when it comes to the rich, there's only one fashion.

I picked up a Telvanni-style robe from a mod...not sure which one added it, but probably Balmora Expansion, as I expect it's one of the ones I got in one of the shops there. I'm not sure exactly what's so "Telvanni" about it, since the leaders of House Telvanni all wear different robes with no unified colour scheme. Certainly not red and black, unless you count Divayth Fyr, owing to the daedric armour he's wearing. And it's decorated with skulls, another thing that doesn't say "Telvanni" to me. How about mushrooms, or crystals? Or the symbols they have on their doors, or the distinctive archways in their cities? This seems more like a necromancer's robe to me. But at any rate, it's an exquisite-level robe, so I've been using it. I'm going to install Clothiers of Vvardenfell today and see if I can find something better.

Anyway, I've enchanted a couple of articles of clothing with constant effects such as "fortify intelligence", pushing me to about 120.

My conjuration skill is still too low to successfully summon Golden Saints for easy grand soul trapping for these constant effect enchants, but it was a worthwhile investment to enchant a ring to do it for me. My new "Golden Saint ring" can summon a Golden Saint five times before recharging, saving me the trouble of searching daedric shrines for them whenever I need some. And they can come in handy in a fight, too!

Propylon indices

I've almost finished collecting all the Propylon Indices, to open up that alternate means of transportation. Just one left to go. One thing I have to say about these things -- In cases where a hostile NPC owned it, of course, the answer was to kill them. Others offered them for sale. But only the two that were owned by Telvanni members were given to me without cost. Just saying.

Anyway, once I get all of them, I'll be able to teleport from Caldera to any of 10 locations arranged in a rough circle around Red Mountain, or teleport between strongholds in either direction in the circle. (The green line on this map.) This was, in fact, the reason I chose this time to go to the Ashlander camp for the main quest -- because the wise woman had one of these indices.

Telvanni/Mage conflict -- or is it?

A frightened mage scholar named Tenyeminwe needs an escort to the ship out of town, because she got in some kind of argument with a Telvanni the previous night, and she's afraid of being attacked if she goes to the ship alone. The funny thing is that the guild sends me, a Lawman-ranked Telvanni, to escort her. You'd think they might have checked. At the very least, I'd have thought Tenyeminwe would have automatically recognised my faction like everyone else can. Even funnier, though I know there's no way for her to have known this, since it was added by a mod, but when I went to meet the scholar to escort her, I was wearing my Telvanni robe, which, even if it didn't look particularly Telvanni, might have made her doubt my motives, with its red-and-black colour scheme and skull motif.

I thought this might be the first quest to be a real conflict of interest between the two houses, thinking I may have to fight some Telvanni attacking her, or at least have to sweet talk them like I did those three racists harassing the argonian in Vivec, but in fact the walk was completely trouble-free. Just a short, simple walk through town to the docks.

Mage/Thieves attitude

I had picked up a Thief quest from Big Helende to obtain a grandmaster's retort, and I hadn't gotten around to looking for the person she said had one, when I happened to find an alchemist in one of the propylon chambers who was selling two complete grandmaster sets, so I bought a retort and delivered it to Helende when I was in town next. Figured out later that I was supposed to steal the retort from the person she'd directed me toward, but this one worked just as well.

Anyway, the next quest she gave me was to hire a wizard from the Mages' Guild to act as a bouncer for the cornerclub. Helende apparantly couldn't tell that I'm a wizard. So I went back to the guild, said hello to Arielle Phiencel again (from whom I'd previously purchased a Staff of the Silver Dawn for a Telvanni quest), and asked her about hiring a wizard for the club, and suddenly it's like she doesn't even remember that I'm a Warlock-ranked member of the Mages' Guild (she's only Apprentice-ranked), snidely saying that she might deign to send a wizard to protect my "precious guildhall" only if I bring her four pieces of raw ebony. Well, the place is called "Dirty Muriel's Cornerclub," so maybe her snootiness is warranted.) Despite the ebony mine problem I mentioned earlier, which prevented me from having a good amount of ebony, I did still have some collected and saved from other locations, so this was no problem. I suppose this is just a matter of roleplaying breakdown. If I were really serious about roleplaying this to the hilt, I suppose I should wear a different set of gear when I go on thief errands, like perhaps the Dark Brotherhood armour set I got from that assassin that attacked me from the Tribunal expansion. It includes a face-covering mask, so at least there would be a reason Arielle would suddenly not know me.

Well, there was a lot of fun exploration and questing for factions that I didn't mention. The last of the Temple pilgrimage I did was pretty interesting, actually. There are 3 sites in Vivec alone that you need to visit to finish that quest, and one of them gives you a 24-minute super-fast flying buff in exchange for a simple offering of any grade of Rising Force potion. And of course Azura's shrine quest is well worth the trip out to the middle of nowhere to obtain Azura's Star, very useful for recharges without needing to restock on soul gems.

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