Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 24: Greater Dwemer Ruins

Remember how I lamented in my last post about how small and unimaginative all the dwarven ruins have been after that first really good one outside Balmora? Especially the ones you have to go to near the climax of the main quest? Well, it seems Darknut has already addressed this issue, with his Greater Dwemer Ruins mod, which combines multiple dwemer mesh resources as well as some original meshes to greatly expand three of the citadels in the game -- those being the very ones that so struck me as disappointing! So, even though I had already been to Odrosal, I went back, to see the difference.

It was fantastic! It was about five times bigger, it had traps, puzzles, and false ends, lots of window dressing, and a real sense of something big going on in this place. And now, the sword really was "well-hidden", unlike before.

Looking at the Greater Dwemer Ruins Resource Pack, I see a team other than Darknut had the goal of expanding all of the dwarven ruins in the game, but apparently this goal was too ambitious, and nothing was ever completed, except for Nedius' Arkngthand, which I believe is complete, from what the readme says. There are 4 or 5 other expanded ruins in various stages of completion included with the resource pack.

Next, I decided to check out Vemynal, the second of Darknut's three expanded ruins. Wow wow wow! Now this is a dwarven ruin! It has everything I could have asked for -- huge turbines and steam pipes in massive underground lakes of magma, boilers, control rooms, a robot construction lab, lifts, labyrinths, living quarters, dining rooms, traps, puzzles, and a really great bit at the very bottom where you claim your prize. This citadel goes deep, deep down into the very core of the planet! My advice to you, is that once you've cleared the pitifully small two levels of the original vanilla fortress ("Outer Fortress" and "Hall of Torque"), unload as much of your inventory as you can, and bring the best fortify strength and/or feather potions or scrolls you can, because you're going to be in this place for a long time, and there's a lot of loot to carry!

Again, I say: Wow! The scale and imagination of this mod is awesome! You would do yourself a disservice if you didn't install this mod!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 23: Tribunal, main quest

Certain enemies in the Tribunal expansion seem to be much tougher than any in the unexpanded game so far.  I attribute this to their increased use of spell reflect.  I'm in the upper 40s in level now, and although I haven't yet finished the main quest in the original game, I've started doing some of the Tribunal quests, including the main quest.  There was a boss lich that I had to fight in the sewers for one quest, who I found very tough for the reflection reasons, as well as the lich having a very hard-hitting spell with wide range that killed me in one shot every time, if she managed to land it near me.  Also, Gaenor, who I mentioned before.

I ultimately dealt with the lich by using my Ring of Equity, a very late Telvanni quest reward, which made me immune to everything she cast at me for 30 seconds, then, since she was just reflecting any spells I was casting at her, I went in with my Devil Tanto and hacked at her until she died.  I think possibly she may have also gotten a bit of one of her spells reflected back at her, though I'm not sure.


Thie same strategy didn't work with Gaenor, though.  I'm not sure what did, really.  Gaenor is a very lucky wood elf grifter who hits people up for money, using a lot of hard-sell techniques (seriously, read the dialogue on this page to see how persuasive this guy is), and you can't exit conversation with him once it begins.  Eventually, no matter what you do or say, he'll fly off the handle and vow revenge for either not giving him enough, promising ridiculous amounts, or refusing him outright, and after he's had a day or two to think about it, he'll return to the area in full ebony armour and attack you on sight.  I had been sneaking around him whenever I needed to go to the temple, because the several times I tried to kill him before had all ended in failure (he walks up and challenges you if you get too close to him).

I tried everything, buffing myself up with potions, spells, and items, using summoned creatures (I used Aryon's Helper and Gothren's Cephalopod Helm, as well as my Golden Saint ring, so I had 5 summoned creatures attacking him at once, and they were having no effect on him), as well as a bunch of poisoned darts I picked up from the Black Dart gang, again, with no effect.  I had my luck buffed up a decent amount, but of course his luck is off the charts, which is why he's so hard to kill.  I had also buffed up my own reflect and spell absorption, but I couldn't see that it did any good.  I don't know if a double-reflect is possible or not (such as I cast a spell, they reflect it back on me, and I reflect it back on them), or if reflections are one time only.

Finally, and I don't know why this worked at this time, I used a few Lightning Storm rings, and was surprised when they took his health down noticeably.  3 or 4 hits with those rings, and he died.  But I tried it again later on an earlier save, because it was a shame to have wasted all those great poisoned darts on him, and it didn't work that time, so it's a good thing I also kept a save from after I killed him.  I probably wouldn't have used those darts on anything anyway.

I had so many things going on, I can't tell what may have contributed to his demise, but it could have been some kind of skill damage that the summoned creatures landed on him, or possibly the fact that he was swimming in the canal at the time I shocked him, or possibly some buff I was using helped.  I think by the time you have a chance of defeating him, the ebony stuff isn't really worth the trouble, and the luck-boosting Gaenor's Amulet isn't really all that powerful or worthwhile as loot, considering how lucky you'd already have to have been to finish him off.

Almalexia and Tribunal quests

I also got to meet the lovely Almalexia.  Well, she's lovely if you've installed Better Almalexia, anyway, which I did.  She seemed nice enough, for a god, though a bit patronising, especially considering who she used to work for.  But still, she spoke with kind words, and the five fawning men she likes to surround herself with seem to like her, too.  Everyone is particularly impressed with Her Hands.

The way Tribunal's main quest is set up, you can either start out working for the smug, sneering Tienius, captain of the guard of the recently crowned Imperial King Claudius -- er, I mean Helseth (who is very obviously the one who ordered an assassination attempt on you), performing tasks for him that make you feel like a fascist informant turning in your fellow citizens for the glory of the State and getting no reward, or you can work for the Temple, curing people of diseases, fighting goblins, cleansing a shrine, and fighting the aforementioned tough lich boss to stop a plague, and getting good gold, item, and spell rewards.  I'm not sure why anyone would keep working for a king who ordered his or her own assassination, not even those who are roleplaying an evil character, or a diehard Imperial loyalist, unless perhaps they're hoping to get close enough to him to slip a blade between his ribs.

Perhaps not really much of an either/or choice, as you have to do most of the Temple quests anyway at some point, it's just that the Imperial quests and the lich/plague quests are optional and can be skipped.  I did a couple of the Imperial ones, but they really felt dirty, and it only strengthened my anti-Imperial feelings.  When I refused the third quest, Tienius unsubtlely remarked that I should change my mind if I knew what was good for me, as I wouldn't like to be on Helseth's bad side.  I think he forgot that Helseth already sent the Dark Brotherhood after me.  I would think he might reconsider threatening someone who shows up wearing the armour of the assassins who were sent to kill them.

Main quest progression

Back in the vanilla game, I think I'm pretty near the climax of the main quest.  I've been sent through the Ghostgate to retrieve the artifacts Keening and Sunder in preparation for facing the big evil bad guy, who as of yet I still haven't met.  All I know about his looks is from the descriptions from the dreams that he wears a golden mask.  At this point, I just want to take care of it to get rid of those annoying ash storms where I can't see anything and my mana won't regenerate (that's a feature of Regional Mana).

So I've been to one of the vampire citadels so far.  I decided to go counterclockwise among the markers that were put on my map, and found the first artifact there.  The cliffs were steep, and I couldn't find a pathway leading up to it, but that was no problem with my high acrobatics and Tinur's Hoptoad, or the wide range of levitations available to me.  Judging from the steepness of the cliffs, and the fact that I found a bridge leading off in the opposite direction once I got up there, I'm thinking I was "supposed" to find this place last, because I found one of the artifacts in there -- Keening.  The dagoth who came to say hello when I was looking around the place claimed that it was "well-hidden" and that I'd never find it even if I got past him.  But his idea of "well-hidden" actually meant "on display in an easily-accessible tower room".  A bit anticlimactic after getting me ready for a challenge.  The whole place was anticlimactic, really.  It was called a Dwemer training academy, so I thought there would be some kind of theme to that effect inside, but it was just a standard, very small dwarven ruin.  I've been disappointed in those in general after the high standard set by the first one I experienced outside Balmora, which was much bigger and had large cave areas combined with it.  The rest have just been small building interiors, for the most part, without even any caverns.  What I really wanted was something to make me think "Wow, what were they doing in here?"

Keening is a very nice shortsword, probably named for both having a keen (sharp) edge, and after the kind of ritual wailing the people of some cultures do over the bodies of dead loved ones, which is also called "keening".  It has five constant effect fortification enchantments on it, and a unique look, and better attack stats than the bound daedric dagger that comes with my trusty old Devil Tanto from Ra'virr's shop, except without the short blade skill fortification and 10-second fire shield, and it's 5 pounds heavier.  I suppose the fire shield was too short to be useful anyway, and if I need the blade skill fortification I can just make a spell to do it anyway, so I might as well retire the Devil Tanto to one of my storage cabinets at this point.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 22: More NPCs, Less Generic

I installed both Morrowind Comes Alive and several of the Less Generic NPC packs for various regions. Morrowind Comes Alive (MCA) adds a lot of new NPCs to the world, making it feel more occupied. These new NPCs are mainly not named, but classed, so for instance you'll find several NPCs called "Mage" in a Mages' Guild hall or a library, while you'll find a few Bards, Rogues, or Courtesans in taverns. This lack of names helps determine which NPCs may or may not have quests or important information. It also adds recruitable NPCs in all sorts of unexpected locations, who you may convince to become your travelling companion, or even lover. Or, if you don't want to have to talk your companion into it, you can sleep with one of the aforementioned Courtesans. Both male and female are available in each tavern.

It also adds some new kinds of enemy NPCs in caves and dungeons, wearing new armour and clothes! I've gotten face scarves, bandanas, ninja masks, quivers, and great-looking Sixth House armour from these new enemies. (See screenshot for the Sixth House armour.) Ah yes, and notice the colour scheme: red and black, which does match the colours for the 6th House -- not House Telvanni.

Less Generic NPCs is a collection of a number of mods that affect specific towns. They add extra flavour to all the otherwise identical responses to common questions you'll get from most NPCs in a town, giving each NPC his or her own story. The reason I waited so long before installing any of them is that I was concerned all the new dialogue might interfere with some vanilla quests, and I thought it might be difficult to tell which information was actually useful for the game, and which was flavour text. I had reason to be concerned about this due to the Callenwald issue I spoke of before, and also something that happened in Balmora Expansion. I do not recommend speaking to any of the people in the brewery about their local liquor "graija", because once you do, every NPC in Balmora will have this useless "graija" topic in their list, and have nothing new to say about it.

But with LGNPC, I've found this to be an unnecessary concern. Though I thought I might not be able to tell when an NPC's special responses had something to do with a quest or not, in fact the mod adds many new quests to them! And I like quests! It makes it really worthwhile to speak to every NPC and see what they have to say. I think I've found 4 new quests in Ald'ruhn added by LGNPC. One where I helped a creative weapons master get his first novel published, one where I investigated what happened to cause some strange lights in the sky over town a few nights ago, and other interesting and unusual quests like that.

Peaceful item exchange

I mentioned before about how it would be nice to be able to negotiate to buy certain items from some NPCs who will not offer them for sale, as a preferred alternative to killing them for those items, and I suggested the use of mods to add Companion Share to any NPC, so you can just swap the item for a fair amount of gold, to roleplay as if you purchased it from them. Well, I never found a single mod that adds Companion Share to just anyone, but I have found that a combination of two mods does the trick. I would have expected that mods like NPC Functionality or NPC Commands would allow Companion Share, but they do not. Perhaps because it would be too easily exploited? Well, I have enough self-control not to cheat myself, so I'm doing it anyway, and here's how:

With either NPC Functionality or NPC Commands, you gain the ability to recruit any NPC in the game to be a companion, if you get their disposition high enough. This alone doesn't give them companion share, but another mod, Fliggerty's Universal Companion Share, adds companion share functionality to any NPC that is currently in "follow" mode, and that applies to any NPC that you recruit using those other mods. It's an extra step to have to first recruit someone to follow me, then make my item exchange, then tell them to stop following me, just to make such an exchange, but it's still better than killing them. If I thought the game would benefit from having fewer NPCs alive in it, I wouldn't have wanted to install Morrowind Comes Alive in the first place.

My first use of this exchange setup was in the case of a quest which I'll describe without naming names, where I had the choice between peacefully taking over this NPCs rank, and getting nothing, or duelling that NPC to the death, and getting several powerful items, one of which I really wanted (a constant-effect amulet with resist normal weapons 25%, spell absorbtion 25%, fortify intellect 25 points, and restore health 1 point constantly). So, I chose to peacefully take over his rank, and then purchase the amulet from him for 3x its worth. It's not like I don't have enough gold to spare at this point. (I took screenshots to illustrate this exchange, but it was before I decided it might be too spoileriffic to show the NPC I'm talking about.)

Extra note about the Qwert dungeons

Knowing the importance of screenshots in deciding whether or not to download a mod, I went and added some screenshots to the pages for Qwert's House of Madness and Qwert's Dwemer Graveyard on TES Nexus, and provided some more detailed description for them in the comments section (the original description for Dwemer Graveyard especially is extremely terse, and not adequate for a 1000-level dungeon).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 21: Vampires, oddities, huge dungeons, clothes

I don't know how long I searched for the sewer system under Balmora Expansion. I could have just opened the mod in the construction set, but I ended up finding it thanks to a user's helpful tip on Planet Elder Scrolls. There are actually three entrances to the Undercity that I know of now, but one's hard to find. I only saw it once, when I left through it, and I couldn't find it again afterwards (it's in the hills outside of Balmora). The easiest one to use is the one in Carnithus' house on the east side of town, but it's only open from dusk 'til dawn, since the Undercity is a settlement of vampires. Another entrance that has no daylight restriction is behind a locked door in Zakothre's General Store, but Zakothre is constantly right there in sight of the door, so you need to be practically invisible to unlock it without getting reported.

I have a problem with a couple of locations in Balmora Expansion and other mods, in which I enter an interior and it's pitch black, and no light spell or night eye has any effect, but I can see fire effects. I'm not sure what causes it, but if I go to other locations for a while, I can usually come back later and the lighting is normal again.

The Undercity is pretty interesting (though not as large or imaginative as the Undercity in WoW), and has a few quests for the non-hostile vampires there, which you don't need to be a vampire to complete, several shops with unique items on a goth or vampire theme, a nightclub that sells some new beverages, and another player home as a quest reward, with a pretty unique design and new textures for it. If you want a dark, evil-looking lair that's not a cave or tomb, this compact but elegant home with black marble columns and vaulted ceilings may be the place for you.

The Undercity is in a section of sewers that are copied from the Mournhold sewers, complete with goblins, but one section has an unusually large concentration of goblins that was a welcome challenge after so much of the usual Morrowind combat being only 1 or 2 enemies at a time.

I'm not a vampire, but I'm planning to become one at some point, to go through some of the quests of one of the clans, because I like quests. I've already killed the leader of one of the three vampire clans as part of a quest, but it's not the clan I would have joined anyway. Just like the Great Houses, there are three vampire clans, each focusing on one of the three playstyles in the game: fighter, thief, and magic-user. The leader I killed was from the Berne clan, the ones who focus on stealth, and I'd be joining the magic-user clan, the Aundae.

In order to get infected, since I'm currently immune to common diseases, I'll have to make a spell, potion, or enchanted item with Weakness to Common Disease, and go fight some vampires of the clan whose bloodline I want to be a part of.

Inconsistent hostiles

Not sure why this happens, or if this is a common thing, but most of the time lately, when I approach NPCs out in the wild or in caves, shrines, etc., they don't turn hostile immediately. I often engage in conversation with them, only to find out that they're Barbarians or Mabrigashes (Ashlander witches), both of which are hostile. Only after a few seconds have passed do they turn hostile. I'm not a stealthy sort, because I like to make sure an NPC is actually hostile before I attack, or I may kill an innocent person, and since there's no colour-coded indicator like in other games (like WoW), this means I have to wait for them to attack me first. I may have to install Fliggerty's Enhanced Detection mod, which includes a spell to "detect enemy", defined as "any creatures or NPCs that are currently hostile towards you, or have fight settings of at least 80, which means they are likely to attack you on sight."

In one case, one of the Dunmer strongholds whose Propylon chamber I teleported to was occupied by a coven of witches. They were all hostile to me except one. She never attacked, so I left her alone. She didn't have unique information or offer any services, but maybe she's a part of some quest somewhere. I thought one thing she said was funny, though (I assume all witches say this) about my trade: "The Temple calls my patrons the bad Daedra, and perhaps they aren't very nice... But I guess I'm not very nice, either." Well, hey, at least you don't attack adventurers on sight! She also offered to teach me something about summonings, but no such topics appeared in her list, so who knows? Maybe that's what she meant about not being very nice. Offering to teach me something, but giving no way to ask her about it.

In another, more bizarre instance, I entered Kagaruhn from the upstairs door after jumping onto the roof, and upon entering I saw what looked like an Ash Ghoul standing in the room down the hall, with his back to me. I snuck up behind him and initiated conversation, and he had some things to say to me (he was one of those one of those named guys, the ones whose first names are all "Dagoth", or else "Dagoth" is some kind of title like "Darth" is in Star Wars), so I thought maybe I was supposed to be talking to him. Except he also had barter and repair options. which I don't think he was supposed to be offering. I checked to see what he had for sale, out of curiosity, and it appeared to be the items I'd expect to find on his dead body after I kill him -- most specifically his heart. I purchased his heart, and he said, "Thank you, come again." Then he attacked me when I stopped talking to him.

Temple quests

A lot of the Temple quests are just "go here and cure this person's disease", but there are some clever and refreshing ones, which require some actual thinking to figure out, like the one in the Puzzle Canal, and the one where you go to Mount Kand and have to answer riddles given by atronachs (though that one you can cheat if you've picked up one of the coloured books of riddles scattered around the game, one of which contains the answers. I didn't have that book with me when I did it, though, so I had to do it the hard way, which I liked better anyway.

The one that I thought was funniest was the pilgrimage to Maar Gan, where you find Darth Maul just standing around in the foyer (actually a dremora -- they all have that red and black horned head style in Morrowind), and if you talk to him, he says, "If you are a pilgrim, read the inscription on the stupid rock." He does this even if you're not on the quest. You see a few of these daedra around the game who are bound to Vivec's service, and are very grumpy and sarcastic about it, which I find amusing.

Main quest interference

Without naming names, so as to avoid spoilers, I was more or less forced to progress further than I'd planned in the main quest, due to reaching the point where certain parties who shall remain nameless become hostile toward you, and refuse to allow you to do their quests. This was despite having held back at the warned "point of no return". The NPC said very clearly "Are you sure you want to do this? You might want to take care of your business with the other party before you accept this action," so I said "No, don't do it yet," and went off to do my business, but they acted like I had accepted it anyway!

Luckily, this period of bad graces is relatively short, once you go off and do a few tasks and meet Lord Vivec, and everything goes back to normal. In my case, I had put the main quest off so long (I was past level 40 and had 51 reputation points by this time), that the "shortcut" option was open to me, in which the Wise Woman expresses concern that I haven't fulfilled the prophecies yet, and that I should go talk to someone in the Temple High Fane. Apparently you can entirely skip the trials involving all the Ashlander tribes and the Great Houses and get sent to Vivec directly. But I ended up doing most of the trials anyway, just because they offered such nice rewards, and because I like quests.

Dungeon crawl mods

I was browsing through some more mod lists, specifically one devoted to mods that add single dungeons to raid and loot, and one caught my eye: Qwert's House of Madness, which boasted a 100-level "randomly generated" dungeon just outside of Hla Oad. 100 levels? Randomly generated? I wondered how that was possible in the game. But what it actually meant was that the dungeon was randomly generated with an external program called GenMod, which is designed to allow quick and easy generation of Morrowind interiors, and saves ESPs to which you can add further detail in the normal construction set.

So Qwert said s/he generated this dungeon to celebrate the release of a new version of this program, and didn't even know what all 100 levels contained. Now normally, I prefer well-designed and carefully crafted environments to explore, but I was well aware that this was not designed for that, so I took it for what it was. This had in mind other hack & slash type RPGs instead, not something you explore and admire, just something very obviously game-y that you hack your way through and loot and pillage. Some of the floor plans really did resemble something you might see in a classic computer game featuring random dungeons like Rogue or Nethack, or maybe a pencil and paper RPG whose focus wasn't on realistic architecture.

It featured many new types of enemy (all monsters, no NPCs), with different abilities and stats, some of which were very tough, like bosses, though all using the stock vanilla Morrowind meshes. It was an interesting change of pace. The levels are absolutely packed with monsters, of all kinds, from kwama workers to skeletons to dwemer centurions and so on and so on. There is also no theme or unifying design to the levels, as all types of containers and furniture appeared side by side together (i.e. a dunmer chest, next to a mine cart, next to a dwemer cabinet, next to an upper class bed, etc.) This random assortment also extended to the architecture itself, as the levels I explored were comprised of Telvanni mushroom interiors, Redoran interiors, and Daedric shrine interiors, though the architecture was consistent within a single level (no mix and match on a single level, in other words).

I worked my way through the first 6 levels of the dungeon, having to exit after every two levels to unload my loot. But the first time I went out and came back, I was very disappointed to find that all the monsters had respawned already. I hacked my way through to the next level doors quickly that time, but the next time I headed out to unload, I stopped by the spellmaker and made a few new spells. I made three new damage spells: absorb health, shock damage, and poison, all between 100-150 damage points over 5-10 seconds, and having the widest possible range (50...feet? Yards? Meters? I'll just say "units"). I also made a 50-unit-wide soul trap spell, and picked up a bunch of empty soul gems that had been gathering dust in one of my bases. The spells worked beautifully, taking out entire roomfuls of monsters at once, and filling up about a dozen soul gems per fight.

It was definitely useful for leveling up my enchanting, as I used the filled gems to recharge some of my magic items I had used in the first couple of levels before I made the spells. But even though these were perfectly valid spells that anyone can make in the vanilla game, they felt a little too overpowered, and removed the challenge from the dungeon, so I probably shouldn't have made them. They'd certainly be far too powerful for a normal Morrowind dungeon or typical encounter, considering how sparsely populated and spread out the NPCs are in them, where you rarely ever fight more than 1 or 2 enemies at a time. The most powerful thing about these wide-range spells is that they don't even need to hit an enemy directly -- I can cast it against a wall or the floor in the middle of a room, and it affects everything within the 50-unit radius. These spells are like going into a bandit lair and just tossing grenades inside, and then going in to loot the bodies. I don't recommend it, as it'll take away the fun. I might still keep the wide-range absorb health spell in reserve for emergencies if I get ganked by a crowd of mobs, because the more mobs that are attacking me, the more health I'm leeching into myself.

The way the House of Madness dungeon is set up, from what I've determined so far, is that level 1 has a door to level 2 and a trapdoor to level 10. I haven't gone down to level 10, but I expect that there's another trapdoor on level 10 leading to level 20, and so on. From what the readme file says, there are also some kind of activators on every 10th level, so you can choose to teleport from the surface directly to any of the levels you flip that switch for, once you've been down there.

Qwert also made another 100-level dungeon called The Undead Dungeons near Seyda Neen. But those turn out to be the smaller of Qwert's dungeons, as it turns out s/he also created The House of 6 Pains, which is 500 levels deep, and The Dwemer Graveyard, a dwarven ruin that's 1000 levels deep!! Unbelievable! And I thought the dungeons in the Oblivion mod The Lost Spires were huge! Why haven't I ever seen a tool like GenMod for Oblivion?

Better Bodies robe fix

So, I never did figure out how to convert the BB dresses and gowns into proper robes. The game just silently exited whenever I tried to run my mod that changed them from "shirts" to "robes". I tried renaming the body parts in NIFskope, and of course I had to make new "body parts" for the NIFs in the construction set, but it wouldn't work, and I don't know why.

On the other hand, I think I might have a faint idea of why these gowns weren't defined as robes in the first place. From some comments that I managed to find after scrounging through ancient search results, it appears that robes, both vanilla and BB, are made to replace the entire upper body (and possibly lower body as well), and for some reason it's not practical to make a robe with a low neckline or bare shoulders, so they had to be defined as shirts.

So, since I really wanted to use these clothes, and using them meant I lost several enchanting slots due to clothing overlapping or covering up what I don't want covered up, or not covering up what I do want covered up, I just made special copies of these gowns in the construction set with multiple enchants built into them -- the same enchantments I purchased or would have purchased on multiple items under normal circumstances.

An effect of this is that those glasses (the ones I hadn't been using because they made my neck disappear) worked properly. Apparantly it was another one of those cover/not cover conflicts with my vanilla attire.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 20+: House Telvanni is misunderstood

Before I get into the main point of this post, I'm going to list all the factions I currently belong to:

  • Great House Telvanni: Master
  • Mages' Guild: Master Wizard
  • Fighters' Guild: Protector
  • Thieves' Guild: Operative
  • Tribunal Temple: Diviner
  • Imperial Cult: Primate
  • Imperial Legion: Agent

The Blades and the Ashlanders also show up in my faction list, but I'm not aware of any quests for them aside from the main quest, so I don't count them. The Imperial Legion was the last one I joined, and I did so partially because I was so pleasantly surprised with how unexpectedly enjoyable the Temple quests were, but also because my journal had a few errant Legion entries that I acquired by accident while just going around interacting with people and things. This turned out to be a bit of a problem.

Imperial Legion problem

This section contains an anti-spoiler. Reading this may prevent you from messing something up in your game.

The main one I wanted to complete was in Ald Velothi, because I had picked up a quest from a random townsperson, who said someone was being held captive in a nearby camp. I went over there, found the woman, paid off the kidnappers, and brought her back to town, whereupon she thanked me, and the quest seemed over. But it was still an active quest in my journal, and it was marked as a Legion quest, even though I wasn't in the Legion. So I looked the quest up on UESP, and found that the one who should complete the quest was Darius of the Imperial Legion. It also said that if you began that quest before joining the Legion, you'd never get to do the quests that came before it, because Darius would not offer them. It claimed that the problem was fixed by the unofficial patch, but it was not fixed for me. First of all, after I joined the Legion, Darius immediately promoted me, but then kept telling me to go rescue the woman, and didn't acknowledge that she was already rescued. My journal showed that she was rescued, and I went back to town and talked with her again, and she again thanked me for rescuing her, but Darius still wouldn't acknowledge it. So I used the console to complete the quest. Darius then offered me the next quest, skipping the first two quests he was supposed to offer. This is a disappointment, because I was looking forward to the Widow Vabdas quest, since I had already found the things I needed to do for that quest while exploring, and purposely left them alone so I could do the quest normally. I guess the lesson here is: join every faction possible, just in case.

The worst part about the Legion is that you can't deal with the questgivers unless you're wearing an Imperial cuirass. They'll refuse to speak to you because you're "out of uniform." This is annoying because those cuirasses are useless extra weight to me, as I fight mostly unarmoured, and if I did need a cuirass, I have higher quality ones with useful enchantments in storage. Thankfully, there's a mod that adds a new item that satisfies the same requirement, but it's a weightless Legion badge that doesn't need to be worn, just carried.

Impression of other guilds

So far the Thieves' Guild quests have been rather boring. However, in Oblivion, the Thieves' Guild final quest was one of the most interesting quests of all, so maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised with them later.

The quests from the Wolverine Hall branch of the Fighters' Guild are better, especially since they had two quests that involved visiting glass mines. I'm happy to report that the problem I was having before with not being able to loot raw ebony deposits has been cleared up, and the glass deposits in these mines gave me no trouble either. I obtained a lot of raw materials that day. Maybe I'll even splurge a little on using some to craft some worthless glass pots and jars. The second load of glass was a welcome reward for trudging all the way to that mine loaded down with 50 pounds of sujamma to deliver. I don't know how these miners can claim that mining is "hard work" when I can just sneak some glass out of the deposit when they're not looking. Morrowind being a conquered holding of the mercantilist Empire, of course, all glass "belongs to the Emperor". I'm not a fan of mercantilism in general, and I still have a grudge against the Emperor for the prison incident at the beginning of the game, so I'm happy to relieve him of some of his unfairly claimed raw materials.

Telvanni stronghold quest

Reaching the rank of Master in House Telvanni allowed me to do the quest for the third and final stage of my stronghold, a Telvanni mushroom tower. After I had done so, however, I found it to be a bit lacking in utility for a wizard. I did a little search, and found 4 or 5 mods (maybe more) that redesign and/or expand the tower. This is not to say I think the tower is too small -- on the contrary, it's the largest stronghold of the three Great Houses. But the ceilings are rather low, the doorways are a little too narrow (I keep getting caught in them as I try to pass through them), and there's one section that's excessively tightly packed considering you have to work your way around these things via levitation, which gets you caught on even more things than just walking around does. Aside from the navigation issues, there's just not enough mage-related working space. Considering House Telvanni is mainly geared toward magic users, I'd expect more magic-related working space. Well, actually, I could work with it, as the "dungeon" underground (really just a cavern, as there are no prison cells there) has plenty of room where I could set up my portable alchemy lab and some of that portable furniture from Balmora. I might like to move my home base from the Magus Realm to here, and I'm looking to see if I can find a mod I like.

Several of them expand the place a great deal, though, such as adding a town surrounding the tower, quests, large underground extensions, etc. I don't need to run a whole city, but I do like the idea of more quests. The problem is, from the mods' descriptions, I'm again seeing a public opinion that House Telvanni is evil, and they're explicitly designing the tower additions and quests with this thought in mind. Now I'm drawing parallels to the robe I was talking about before, that was called a "Telvanni" robe, but had nothing to do with any Telvanni symbols or colours, and in fact looked like a necromancer robe. Whoever made that robe had this same idea that the Telvanni are evil.

In defense of House Telvanni

Like the other Great Houses, and also the guilds, House Telvanni has an in-game book describing what House Telvanni is all about. Theirs is called The Affairs of Wizards, which should give you an idea right away where they're coming from. "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards," advises Tolkien, "for they are subtle and quick to anger." (Never mind that joke version involving dragons and ketchup, which has become better known than the thing it parodies.) The book explains that most of what you may have heard about the Telvanni is untrue, and that they are a cosmopolitan group who does not discriminate against outlanders or beast races for entry in the house, which is true. And they certainly don't hate outlanders as much as the 6th House does, what with all the "N'wah must die" business. The book also implies that House Redoran may have a grudge against House Telvanni, due to some limited economic sanctions the Telvanni imposed against the Redoran, "for political reasons".

Twice, when I was approaching the end of Master Aryon's quests, I was sent to defend two different Telvanni wizards from invasion and attacks by Houses Redoran and Hlaalu, in which their forces invaded these wizards' homes. In one of those cases, it was never explained why they were attacking, aside from a terse note I found on the body of the leader of the invaders saying that they've taken the tower "as ordered", and they'll hold it as long as possible. In the other case Master Aryon was of the opinion that it was just a simple land grab by the other house, and he opined that they should realise that there's plenty of room in Morrowind for all three Great Houses.

In reading the version of the quest for the attacking House in the first case, on the other hand, they had attacked the Telvanni wizard because he was apparently a necromancer. This does seem to fit the evidence, I have to say. There were skulls and bones lying around, which I assumed were there because the place looked like an ancestral tomb or one of those places that have those round sand pits with the bones in them, but he also had lots of summoned daedra in the place, and as we all know, conjuration and necromancy go hand in hand. (Never mind the fact that this particular necromancer has developed a new method of necromancy that doesn't require the use of body parts -- only a drawing!) But does this make House Telvanni evil? What, because a necromancer belonged to House Telvanni, that makes all Telvanni necromancers? I seem to recall also finding a necromancer as a member in good standing of the Balmora Mages' Guild. But I'm willing to guess that much of this idea that the Telvanni are evil is based on these quests that the other two houses get, even though from the Telvanni side these are preemptive strikes by the other houses.

The subsequent quests involving assassinating one member each of the other two attacking Houses were distasteful to me, but I can see them justifying it as an act of revenge against the other Houses' attacks, or as a means of sending a warning message not to do it again. I don't justify it, as I wouldn't have done it if it weren't necessary to complete the questline, and I understand the other Houses have more or less identical quests at this stage in their questlines, so no one's innocent.

In one of the Imperial Legion quests, I learned that Baladas Demnevanni is keeping an orc Legionnaire prisoner. When I asked him about it, he explained that she came demanding tribute from the Empire of Men. He had been living in Morrowind long before the Imperials invaded and conquered the place, and he expected to still be there after they were gone, and therefore considered himself exempt from their taxes. Personally, I find that to be a perfectly reasonable position to take. The Empire invaded a sovereign nation, conquered them, and are occupying their land by force, to the anger and resentment of the native population. This is another Telvanni who just wants to be left alone to his research, as seems to be the case in most of the conflicts between the Telvanni and other houses and guilds. Anyway, Baladas was very agreeable, and released her after I suggested that she'd learned her lesson. Considering what happened to that other tax collector back in Seyda Neen (remember Processus Vitellius?), it seems to me that I'm seeing more mercy and generosity from the Telvanni than others give.

Sliding scale of evil

How do the Telvanni compare to other groups that are unquestionably evil? The Dark Brotherhood -- now they're evil. From the first time you meet Lucien Lachance in Oblivion (accidentally in my case), he makes it very clear that he enjoys murder and torture, and approves of others who do so. The other members laugh and joke about killing children or entire families, and clearly joined the Dark Brotherhood because they love murder for the sake of murder, and consider it just a bonus that they get paid for it. I haven't seen enough of the Cammona Tong to know if they're as bad as the Dark Brotherhood, but the Morag Tong seem to be the "good" assassins. If you have a society with both good and bad assassins, I think the bad ones must be pretty evil. The Sixth House? Also evil. Telvanni? Not so much.

I thought at first that the reason for the impression of the Telvanni being evil was because they defend slavery, but as I found in talking with many NPCs, this is a Dunmer sentiment in general, not unique to House Telvanni. You see slavery in both of the other Great Houses, as well. But do the other Great Houses run a convalescence home for victims of corprus disease, as Telvanni Divayth Fyr does? Of course not! Redoran's too busy going out and smiting evil to care for the sick, while Hlaalu would never engage in such a lossy business venture. But here, the corprus victims are well-protected, and one of Divayth's daughters devotes all her time in tending to their needs while Divayth himself attempts to develop a cure, or at least eliminate the harmful effects of the disease.

I can't paint a purely glowing portrait of House Telvanni, of course. A couple of the counselors give quests that involve killing another House member for purely selfish and material gain, not justified at all. And I think the game is not fair for setting it up to require killing them, anyway. When I go to Senise Thindo because Master Neloth wants her Robe of the Drake's Pride, and she's wearing it (so it's not pickpocketable), and tells me it's "not for sale," realistically there should be an option to explain that Neloth means to obtain it over her dead body, and I should have the option to offer her a very good price for it. Most people would be willing to part with something if they knew that someone was planning to kill them to get it. That's the sort of option I was given in the quest where Ranis Athrys sent me to kill Tashpi Ashibael, so why not here? At least with mods that allow you to negotiate "companion share" with any NPC, you can roleplay around these limitations, and exchange someone's not-for-sale robe or Flesh Made Whole amulet for a generous amount of gold.

Anyway, that doesn't excuse the fact that these counselors gave the quests in the first place. But again, I consider these to be occasional bad apples that do not condemn the majority of the house members. Much like I shouldn't condemn the whole Mages' Guild for the murderous intent of Ranis Athrys and Sirilonwe, or the necromantic practises of Sharn gra-Muzgob.

Telvanni Décor and conclusion

With the worst out of the way, I want to finally draw attention to the preferred décor of Telvanni members. While necromancers and the Dark Brotherhood like to live and work in dark tombs, sleeping on stone slabs, surrounded by bloody altars, rotting dead bodies, and human bones and viscera, the Telvanni tend to prefer surrounding themselves with life and creativity rather than death and putrification. They grow their towers from tree-mushrooms like you might expect a druid to do, and surround themselves in these living plant-buildings with elegant carvings, glowing blue crystals, and objects of study such as books, scrolls, and potions. If preferred living conditions reflect a person's personality, then I'd say this reflects positively on House Telvanni.

Not much else to say about that, but this Telvanni apologia has run overlong anyway.